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JAZZ A Film By Ken Burns
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Jazz LoungeCool Jazz Style
Cool Jazz Style, The styles explained David Brubeck and Paul Desmond
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Cool Jazz Style

By Loren Schoenberg, Conductor and Saxophonist

Audio sample Take Five
The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Recorded July 1, 1959
(Courtesy Columbia/Legacy)

It is a little difficult to reconcile the term "cool" with the music of the Dave Brubeck Quartet — so many of the labels attached to the music ultimately diminish its individuality. To be sure, the leader's forceful and polyrhythmic piano playing was never "cool", but the moniker does make a better fit for the group's alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Lester Young's influence was felt in virtually all corners of the jazz world in the 1940's and 50's. Players of all instruments and many jazz composers were strongly affected by his music. Desmond's conception came directly out of Young's and one his most profound disciples, saxophonist Lee Konitz.

Desmond was also a composer, and his Take Five astonished everyone at the time when it became a major hit. It was written in the challenging time signature of 5/4 (albeit grouped into a regular subdivision of 3+2) and was recorded in 1959, when jazz had already been largely supplanted by rock and roll. If anything, it's a tribute to the tune's catchy melody and the off-handed elegance of the performance. Drummer Joe Morello is credited with having devised the basic rhythmic pattern and his drum solo is a classic of restraint and taste.