#SaveTheCulture - Time Out

Save The Culture Campaign

Steve Taylor-Bryant reviews the first Jazz album to sell a million copies as part of our #SaveTheCulture campaign...

When I first got the email to say I'd been selected to review an album of cultural significance I was really excited. I'll get something by The Who, maybe some Black Sabbath, I crossed my fingers I'd get my beloved Billy Joel. I waited by the post box like an expectant puppy for a CD to be delivered. I got a jazz album... Jazz? Okay, well I'm a drummer, I grew up listening to The Buddy Rich Big Band perhaps this will be Rich live from Ronnie Scott's? Who the hell is Dave Brubeck?

Disappointed but endlessly professional I put the disc on and set about my listening in a darker mood than maybe a reviewer should be, continually muttering about being stitched up. That is until about 2 minutes into track 1, Blue Rondo A La Turk when something in my drummers mind clicked with me. Time signature.

Time signatures are essential to music to keep all the musicians playing something coherent but too often on albums, and especially early jazz (we're talking the 1950's here), you get 3/4 which basically turns everything into a Waltz, or the traditional 4/4 which every one hit wonder and 99% of all other music is written in. This was different, this was all over the map and by the time I was on track 3, Take Five, and realised everybody in the world had heard this tune I had a completely different mindset and started the listen again from the very beginning, pen in hand, mental metronome clicking in my brain, drum lesson nightmares from my childhood freshening themselves for a revisit. You see this album is a drummers nightmare on paper but if you can pull it off, alongside some of the worlds most experienced and experimental musicians, it becomes a rare thing of beauty, something highly intelligent and so different to the norm that you can't help but love it. 5/4 played well, 6/4 like I'd never heard it, 9/8 had me sweating. Who are these guys, why are they insane, how did this get a release when record executives (even in jazz) were not ready for change?

Time Out
Well the band were Dave Brubeck on piano who used the instrument as both a band leader for timings and a vocalist for tune. It was subtle, it was pretty, it was essential. It raised jazz piano for me in my thinking, from elevator muzak to something vital and significant. Gone were the high speed runs of show offs, apparently an accident meant Brubeck lost some nerves in his hands, and in its place was just simple genius, blocks of notes that were a perfect accompaniment to cool sounds going on around the piano. Alongside Brubeck's piano was some very understated bass courtesy of Eugene Wright, and some almost raunchy saxophone from Paul Desmond. Remember sultry sounding lounge singers? It was that but on an alto sax. Rounding out the group was a man I owe an apology to. Joe Morello should be a better known name in my house.

Morello didn't play flashy or loud as a drummer, none of what he does on Time Out is on a par with Buddy Rich but for all Rich's loud exuberance you get subtle technique from Morello. It's quiet. That may not sound all that complimentary but trust me when you sit behind a drum kit, even with brushes instead of sticks, quiet is incredibly difficult to pull off. It's even harder when you are showing true skills and impeccable timing as you move effortlessly from one signature to another. Morello isn't the household name that Buddy Rich is, and I'm part of the problem. I fell easily into the Big Band element of Jazz that I didn't seek out a different way of playing, a different style of kit work. Susan, when she nominated me, used the albums incredible sales as a reason why its culturally relevant (first jazz album to ever sell over a million copies) and that should be reason enough to review it. But it's bigger than sales for me. It's introduced me to a new drummer, it's led me to a genre of jazz I'd never considered before, it's proved that our #SaveTheCulture idea is already working. Time Out is now a constant listen in my life, it has been taken from obscurity and made relevant in my life for my own reasons not someone else's. 

Now for a change of pace...

My nomination is an album that for me waaay back in 1992 redefined the rock genre. An album that brought militant political conversation back to the table whilst stepping up the musical levels compared to what had come before. Step forward and prepare to Rage Against the Machine Defective Inspector!



Image - Amazon.