Yesterday jazz legend Dave Brubeck of “Take Five” fame died most recently.
A snippet from the Washington Post below:
Brubeck combined classical influences and his own innovations on the seminal 1959 album “Time Out” by his classic quartet that included alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright.
It was the first jazz album to deliberately explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time. It was also the first million-selling jazz LP and is still among the best-selling jazz albums of all time.
Columbia executives blocked its release for nearly a year — until label President Goddard Lieberson intervened.
“They said, ‘We never put out music that people can’t dance to, and they can’t dance to these rhythms that you’re playing,’” Brubeck recalled in 2010. He also wanted a painting by Joan Miro on the cover, something else the record company had never done.
“I insisted that we go with something new,” he said. “And to their surprise, it became the biggest jazz recording they ever made.”
An extract from Blowout The Greatest Popsax book
‘Take Five’ achieves greatness because Paul Desmond’s alto sax is so sublime on top of Brubeck excellent hypnotic riff. Desmond plays his delightful hook in a blues/dorian key followed by a memorable middle eight section and then a repeat of the main theme, all sitting on a repeated piano groove played in 5/4 time.
This became the first million selling crossover jazz pop single.And yet ‘Take Five’ almost didn’t happen. As Paul Desmond himself confesses, ‘At the time I really thought it was kind of a throwaway. I was ready to trade the entire rights, lifetime-wise of ‘Take 5’ for a used Ronson electric razor. And the thing that makes ‘Take 5’ work is the bridge (middle eight) which we almost didn’t use. We came within ….I shudder to think how close we came to not using that, because I said “Well I got this theme that we could use for the middle part.” And Dave Brubeck said “Well let’s run it through.” And that’s what made “Take Five.”’
The original version of ‘Take 5’ is one to learn by heart as it sounds so easy, but of course it’s more involved than you might think. And although it is an unconventional jazz melody it achieved universal recognition. It re-enforces once again the old adage that ‘No-one knows what makes a pop hit, no-one!’
Brubeck continued performing and I saw him here in Bath at The Forum best part of 20 years ago and he was superb.An entertaining wit as well as superb pianist wearing a Dj you could land an aircraft on!
He still was gigging with the latest version of his quartet until just past his 90th birthday, despite needing heart surgery and a pacemaker.
On Friday November 30th The Blowout Sax had yet another amazing evening of music with soem excellent performances from our students.
Paulo came to take photos and if you were in the first half go to You can find the photos here..see a selection below
He kindly said this link can be shared with anyone and people are able to download the High
res version. Feel free to upload the images to any social media/website you
He also said ‘Really amazing show! Your students are really good. Hard to believe how muchthey have progressed in just a year!’
On Friday November 30th at the same time of the Blowout Sax gig and finishing the gig with One Step Beyond that great British musical institution Madness were playing in Cardiff.Imagine my surprise at 3am when I got a photo,so I asked JP what the story was.
We met most of the band in the hotel bar where Ruth, me and my son Alex and his girlfiend were staying after the gig. A complete surprise which made it a special evening. Alex had asked me what I wanted as a birthday present to celebrate my 60th and realising this was far fetched I’d said I’d like a party and book Madness to play! So Alex bought us the tickets for Cardiff and is now claiming he’d set the whole thing up of course.
Attached are the photos of me JP with El Thommo and one of him on stage, and Suggs.
Lee was very nice and he was happy to sit and chat for a while with his pint. He told me he plays a Selmer Mk6 and his Mum made him practice at the bottom of their very long garden when he was learning and he would take sandwiches and his CD player down there and just sit and practice all day. He also mentioned he likes his motorcycles (up my street) although fell off his R6 (Yamaha) on a track day at Snetterton and hurt his ribs.
It was a great night.
Diary Of A Sax Affair by Toni Warren … A honest and hilarious account of those first few days of playing a sax
DAY ONE AUGUST 23RD 2012
My first lesson! I am so excited. I have always wanted to play the sax, it has such an amazing quality and tone, so sexy. I am fairly musical, played recorder and clarinet when I was young, so it shouldn’t much different really.
Mark my tutor is mad. Charming, disarming, full of life and love. But totally mad. In a nice way of course. And a brilliant saxophonist. I am itching to get on with it, and hurray he is finally putting a shiny gold sax around my neck on a sling.
Damn it’s heavy. The sling is digging into my neck and slicing a groove into my collarbone. And there are so many twiddly bits of metal going on everywhere I keep putting my fingers over the wrong keys.
So now I am trying to curl my bottom lip up on the mouthpiece and finally I can play a note…. What the… nothing happened. Blow harder…. Nope.
“Curl your lip again” says Mark cheerfully “find the sweet spot on the mouthpiece to suit you”
Like I have any idea what the sweet spot looks, feels or tastes like. I feel like my gran when she took her teeth out with her receding lower lip but I mentally shake myself and try again. And again. And again.
“Like this” urges Mark playing a trill of silky sexy notes that fill the air with warmth and sunshine.
Trying not to grit my teeth (no no just rest your two front teeth on the mouthpiece) I try to stop feeling like I am five again and my first day at school and give it my best shot, and finally…….
OH MY GOD what a terrible sound! It sounded like the foghorn on the Titanic with an iceberg ten metres away.
“Great” encourages Mark “keep going. Just try it again keeping the lip curled and remember to push your stomach out as you breathe in”
Shall I rub my head at the same time? Cursing silently I persevere and persevere, and slowly slowly there is some small change and the notes (well one or two) become a little softer and less jarring on the ears.
“Great. Now let’s try the upper octave”
You have to be kidding. I am just about managing to extract a sound that doesn’t crack the reinforced windows and now we have to try higher ones. Well don’t blame me if you need an emergency glazier.
And so we try again, this time blowing a bit faster, and now we can include a dreadful squeal to my repertoire of ‘notes’.
“Don’t worry that is just where you are blowing too hard; you’ll find the balance just keep looking for your sweet spot”
There is nothing that feels sweet about the whole session, until suddenly I hit a purple patch and several notes come with some degree of softness and sweetness.
“That’s fantastic” shouts Mark “Let’s stop there!”
Yeah quit while you’re ahead, Mark, very sensible. But that tiny, tantalising taste of what it should be like is enough to boost my spirits and send me out into the street with quite a jaunty step sporting a heavy black case and a thick book ‘what he wrote.’
“Take the sax home and play, and see me in two weeks. Have fun and just ring me if you get stuck” calls Mark behind me.
By the time I have cooked tea for everyone and cleared up it is nearly 9. I am itching to practice just a little, and my family are itching to hear.
“Give me a few minutes to get warmed up” I say.
Standing in the office looking out of the window I blow futilely into the stupid metal thing. Nothing. Absolutely diddlysquat. Breathe. Curl your lip. Find your bloody sweet spot. Nothing. Count to ten. Twenty. Thirty. Lose your rag and blow as hard as you can to make you feel better.
“Aargh what the hell?” husband shouts through door “Isn’t there a volume button on it?”
“Shut up and leave me to practice”
Don’t give up don’t give up. Persevere. Several loud blasts. One by one my little dogs skulk out of the office. Only two staunch and loyal subjects remain stoically on the sofa bed.
I hate it bloody thing. No no keep trying. But I hate it. I can’t do it. Keep trying. My neck hurts. My collarbone has a permanent dent in it. Come on you’re no quitter. It’s not quitting if you’ve never got bloody started surely. Come on give it another go. Oh god OK I will try again. Lip, stomach, back, fingers on keys, sweet spot.
Plenty of blasts, long blasts, short blasts and then from nowhere – oh oh that suddenly felt right. And three notes together all with a softness to them that melts your soul.
STOP NOW. Remember quit while you’re ahead.
Stowing my precious cargo back in its protective cocoon I am smiling again; in the space of ten minutes I have turned from petulant sulky child to saxophonist extraordinaire in the making.
Night night my golden friend.
Why does work have to get in the way of everything? All day I have been trying to find time to get to my sax with no success.
Finally I seize my chance while tea is cooking and dart into the office (door shut obviously)
Putting it all together lovingly, I pick up the sling ( wincing slightly ) and put the instrument over my head in readiness.
Ok come on, try and remember how you made those notes happen again. Mouth on mouthpiece. OW! my lower lip feels like it has been punched by Tyson when I press it onto the mouthpiece. Just get on with it. No pain no gain.
Curling my lip, pushing my stomach out as I breathe in, blowing softly. Nothing. Don’t you dare cry. Nobody said this was gonna be easy. Come on think about it. Ah ha! Notes. Notes are happening. All different notes are happening. None of them are nice though. In fact they are all pretty horrid, out of tune and broken by running out of breath. Keep trying. I AM bloody trying. My lip hurts. A lot. I think my teeth are stuck in them. Keep trying.
I do. And I guess I got a lot more notes than I did yesterday. But they are all HORRIBLE. Remember that fleeting moment of ecstacy with those three notes last night. I can’t do it. I am rubbish. A loser.
Taking the sax off I stump out of the office to throw a few pans around. In a foul temper. Lost track of time and tea is now a bit burnt. Can’t even bloody cook. Several deep breaths. Kick yourself up the proverbial. Get back in that hell hole and try again. I don’t want to. Yes you do. Don’t. Do. Ok I do. Kind of.
Round two. In the blue corner is the sax. Battered and bruised in the red corner, I emerge, trying to bounce about a bit to pep myself up. Pick up the hateful thing. Put the more hateful sling (yep definitely winced that time) round my neck. Ow. Lip, stomach, back, sweet spot. Blow. Horrible sound. Keep trying. Blow, only differently. Oh. Hang on. Something just felt better. I didn’t blow, I kinda breathed out. Don’t ask me what I did but it was different. And better. And some of the notes were softer. And sweeter. Maybe not exactly sexy yet. But looking at it objectively, it was better. Better than round one. Better than day one. So that has got to be better, right?
STOP. Put it away quick. It will only go downhill now, cos my lip now feels like it is about to split and I could definitely do with a nice blast from an oxygen cylinder, maybe with an entonox chaser to take away the pain.
It got better. That is all I can cling to. That and a hot water bottle.
Today was a non event for practice. No chance all day and then impromptu barbecue in evening with a couple of mates. Thought I had blown it. But then, friend asks me if I have done anything exciting this week…. So I told her about the sax.
“OOH play it for me!” she exclaims “we went to a jazz festival last month it was AMAZING!”
“err can’t really play it yet” I mutter “maybe when I am better”
“Oh no – go on just a few notes” she pleads
It sounds so simple said like that doesn’t it. She takes a look at my face and sees an immovable object.
“Ok, just show it to me anyway – I’d love to see it” she says with a determined smile.
“Fine.” So I take her into the office and take my golden friend/enemy (the jury is still out at present) out of its case.
“ooh it’s gorgeous” she coos “how do all the bits fit on?”
So I put it together to show her, vicious strap et all, and stand holding it for her to look at. And she looks at it. And I look at it. And it looks at me. And I just want to put it on and play it. At that moment she says encouragingly
“go on, try a few notes”
And of course I do. Because deep down, I want to. Even though I know I face immediate ridicule and worse, sympathy.
So I take a deep breath. From my stomach obviously. And blow. Surprise surprise, nothing.
“Don’t worry – try again” she urges.
Don’t even think you know what trying is. But I relax, think about my breathing and….
Oh. Those didn’t sound too bad. Try them again. Bit squeaky but there more or less. Go down to the right hand.
“ooh they sound LOVELY” she squeals.
And they bloody did. I ran down the scale again, well bumped down it rather unevenly, but still, a few half decent notes popped out.
And then I remembered the ribs on the barbecue. And that was that.
Big lasagne in the oven, salad made – off to the office. I got those reasonable notes within seconds yesterday; we are on our way….
AAArgh what is that terrible squeaking when I blow? I examine the mouthpiece; reed in place CHECK, top bit in place CHECK, no fingers on other bits of metal CHECK, right hand hovering over keys not leaning on anything CHECK lip curled over CHECK breathing from stomach CHECK. Try again…
AAARgh terrible squeaking still. What am I doing? Don’t blow too hard. Nope that didn’t work. Blow as hard as you can in temper… Ah ha squeak merges into foghorn – terrible but makes me feel better and stops me putting my head through the window. Try again. I am going to have those words etched on my gravestone, which could be in use sooner than I thought. Loud frustrated blasts to get rid of the squeak ensue, accompanied by wolf like baying from my corgi cross terrier outside the window.
Ok and Breeeathe. Move your mouth somewhere else, breathe somewhere else; keep experimenting and keep blowing and keep trying and slowly slowly the notes start to soften and sing a little. And start to come from a different place. And it feels so nice when it is good, but so TERRIBLE when it is bad. But I even start experimenting with a couple of trills of notes up and down, and in between the breathing coming and going like a 90 year old with pneumonia it is making me smile (with lower lip curled obviously, that is now my permanent expression). It is only a tiny fluttering somewhere deep inside, but I feel the seed of a love affair beginning to germinate. If I can keep it in a warm place somewhere and not let it fall on stony ground who knows, it may grow a tiny sprout in the days ahead.
On reading this account Mark replaced her sling of pain with a NEOTECH sling and Toni is there playing away today having finished the Blowout Sax Book and moving onto Blowout Late Night and Spiritual.