A little Dave Brubeck: “Blue Rondo”

This delightful Diana Krall piece from yesterday put me in mind of Dave Brubeck, with his large hands and his big ten-fingered chords.

Here’s the quartet doing their classic “Blue Rondo à la Turk” — one of their early time-change masterpieces in a 1962 television performance.

Watch for the big-hands chords during his solo, about 2:42 into the clip. And listen for (in my view) the sweetest woodwind player of the century, Paul Desmond.


Can you count that piece? In beats, the first part is three measures of 9/4 (nine beats per measure) grouped three times as 2+2+2+3 (=9), and then one measure grouped as 3+3+3 (=9).

Listen for it — it’s not as complicated as it seems; it just goes by fast (for the ear, 2+2+2+3 sounds like this: 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3).

Then the piece shifts into a swinging 4/4, where 2 beats of the 9/4 become 1 beat of the 4/4. Smooth, yet fascinatingly complex in sound.

You should be able to easily hear the shift from 9/4 to 4/4. This is what made Brubeck Brubeck. (The immortal “Take Five” — in 5/4 natch — is from the same album.)


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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