It’s hard to imagine how two artists as disparate as Ornette Coleman and Dave Brubeck (or more particularly, his saxist Paul Desmond) coexisted. Their approach to jazz was so intrinsically different that they stood worlds apart.
Coleman’s harmolodic theories gave most listeners whiplash, while Brubeck’s band played pleasant, straightforward melodies. Coleman took a lot of heat for disrupting the accepted norm, but Brubeck’s band retained their California cool, with a twist. He and Desmond wrote songs that felt magically different somehow by introducing audiences to odd time signatures that were both playful and mildly challenging.
This approach piqued the public’s curiosity and “Time Out” became one of the very first examples of a ‘hit’ jazz single and album, due mostly to the appeal of Desmond’s 5/4 title track. The odd meter gave the song a loping motion that seemed to bounce due to the missing (or added) beat. Other tracks, particularly “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and “Three to Get Ready” also played with time in unique ways, and it surprised the entire jazz world when “Time Out” became the first jazz record to go platinum, selling over one million copies. Naturally, critics wrote negatively of Brubeck while swooning over Coleman, but guess which of the two was featured on the cover of Time magazine? Immense popularity does not connote greatness, but the album’s ability to retain its appeal for six decades probably does.
Blue Rondo à la Turk
Strange Meadow Lark
Three to Get Ready
Pick Up Sticks
December 1959 - Billboard Charted #2
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