It’s likely the most famed piece that legendary jazz pianist-composer Dave Brubeck didn’t write.
With its syncopated 5/4 time, and lively conversation between piano and saxophone, Take Five is arguably one of the most famous songs recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Although the American-born pianist composed most of the quartet’s songs, Take Five was actually written by the group’s alto saxophonist Paul Desmond.
“Many still attribute Take Five to Brubeck, but it was Paul Desmond who composed it and he got the royalties. It’s said that he gave the money from the song to different humanitarian causes like the Croix-Rouge (Red Cross),” said Montréal alto sax player-composer Rémi Bolduc, who is about to lead his jazz ensemble to Vernon Jan. 28.
First recorded in 1959, Take Five has seen a resurgence of late, with the death of Brubeck four years ago. But after the song first came out, many young jazz musicians snubbed it, said Bolduc.
“So many never played it, perhaps because it had become too popular,” said Bolduc, who is also a professor in the music department at McGill University, where he teaches improvisation. “I personally love the tune. It is harder to play than it seems. That 5/4 bridge is not easy.”
The audience can expect to hear Take Five when the Rémi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble brings its Tribute to Dave Brubeck as the third concert of the North Okanagan Community Concert Association’s 2016-17 season.
Joining Bolduc will be his collaborator on the piano, François Bourassa, as well as Fraser Hollins on double bass and Dave Laing on drums.
Bolduc has not only brought his live concert tribute to Brubeck to jazz halls and theatres around Canada, the U.S., and Europe, he and Bourassa, the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Oscar Peterson award at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, recorded an album of Brubeck’s songs in 2015.
“I knew that when I wanted to do this album, I wanted François to play on it. We had hardly played live together before. He did a great job and was perfect for this repertoire,” said Bolduc.
Both men not only have a deep respect for each other, but also for Brubeck’s source material, with which they put their own spin.
“I am not trying to copy Brubeck’s records and I don’t try to sound like Paul Desmond, while François is not trying to do Brubeck,” said Bolduc.
Before Brubeck, Bolduc recorded tributes to his heroes, Charlie “Bird” Parker and John Coltrane. It was his 2008 album with acclaimed tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, who recorded nine albums with Brubeck from 1973 to 1981, and his 2010 album, Random Masters, that got Bolduc digging more into Brubeck’s song book.
“I was also greatly influenced by when I was living in New York City and was studying with (American sax player-composer) Steve Coleman. We were always playing these odd time signatures,” said Bolduc.
“As a sax player, what attracted to me to (Brubeck’s) music were the odd meters, not only the 5/4 of Take Five, but the 7/4 and the 9/4.”
Then there’s the 9/8 of Blue Rondo à la Turk and 6/4 of Everybody’s Jumpin’, both off Brubeck’s 1959 seminal album Time Out.
Brubeck continued in that out-there timing vein with his quartet’s 1961 album Time Further Out, where the songs were placed in order by the number of beats per bar.
For the concert in Vernon, the Bolduc Ensemble will not only perform some of those songs off Time Out, but will also pay ode to Time Further Out, with Bluette, Charles Matthew Hallelujah and Far More Blue.
“We are also going to play In Your Own Sweet Way, which is the most standard jazz tune Brubeck recorded,” said Bolduc.
Bolduc, Bourassa and the ensemble will be coming back to B.C. with their Brubeck tribute in May, and will also perform in Calgary and California.
“Many people have either met or heard Brubeck live out here. He had a big fan club on the west coast,” said Bolduc.
Meanwhile the busy saxophonist is also about to tour his new project out east, a tribute to the great Montréal jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.
“I will be playing with a different pianist for that show, Taurey Butler, who is originally from New Jersey and is now living in Montreal. We will be doing three tours of that show,” he said.
For those who happen to be in Edmonton in March, Bolduc will perform at that city’s well known jazz venue, Yardbird Suite, with fellow Canadian sax players Phil Dwyer, P.J. Perry, Kirk MacDonald, Kelly Jefferson, as well as Laing on drums and Paul Johnston on bass.
Opening for Bolduc at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre is the Jacob Soucy Quartet. Soucy is a Grade 12 Vernon student and trumpet player, who is a member of W.L. Seaton Secondary’s prestigious and award winning jazz band.
The Rémi Bolduc Ensemble takes the stage Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Those without a NOCCA membership can purchase single tickets ($40/adult, $20/student) at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.