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North-East tour notes
An introduction to Concerto barocco
Take Five introductory notes
Take Five costume rehearsals
Take Five press quotes

What's on

North-East tour spring 2008

King's Lynn Corn Exchange
29 - 30 April 2008

Durham Gala
6 - 7 May 2008

York Theatre Royal
9 - 10 May 2008

Click here for a full diary of performances and links for how to book.

Full performance diary

Click here for performance listings.

Take Five

When an 82 year-old Dave Brubeck returned to the UK for an anniversary tour in 2003 (retracing, with unflagging energy, the long march around the islands he had taken 45 years previously), he started off by wryly reminding audiences that he had 12 new pieces on the programme, as well as the much-loved old hits.

But in Portsmouth on the second gig, deluged with requests for the legendary 'Take Five', 'Unsquare Dance' and 'Blue Rondo la Turk', a good-humoured Brubeck surrendered to the inevitable and threw most of his newer material off the set-list. Though he has been a prodigious creator of new work for five decades, those early successes remain his signature tunes, and the enthusiasm of audiences young and old testify to their enduring freshness. Several Brubeck classics are revisited for David Bintley's new jazz-based piece, Take Five.

Brubeck, the farmer's son from Concord, California, has been a jazz giant since he pulled off two remarkable coups five decades ago. Getting his face on to the cover of Time magazine as the new symbol of a jazz resurgence in 1954 was a rare enough achievement, since representatives of America's homegrown art-form hardly ever graced it. But Brubeck then imparted such a popular appeal to the instrumental intricacies of postwar 'modern' jazz that his catchy themes started pushing rock 'n' roll hits off the top of the singles charts. In 1959 'Take Five', with its airy, gently-cajoling sax melody and quietly jolting beat, became the first jazz instrumental to sell a million copies.

Such successes made Brubeck a controversial figure in some quarters (some jazz purists were simultaneously suspicious of his classical-music adaptations and his pop success, and disliked his frequent departures from jazz's staple 4/4 time) but his achievements are almost universally acclaimed today. The BBC even gave Brubeck a Lifetime Achievement Award in its prestigious annual Jazz Awards on last year, in a ceremony which saw the irrepressible 86 year old jam with the BBC Big Band across a live transatlantic link. He has come to be recognised as a rhythmic experimenter as inventive as the brilliant bebop drummer/composer and Charlie Parker partner Max Roach; but also as a visionary capable of blending European compositional ideas, demanding rhythmic structures, Broadway song-forms and improvisation in ways that could be both musically challenging and accessible. However difficult Brubeck's pieces became, you could almost always whistle them in the street.

He learned classical music from his piano-playing mother originally, then trained as a vet from 1938, but switched to music demonstrating such precocious talent, despite limited theoretical knowledge, that the College of the Pacific was obliged to graduate him as long as he promised not to teach. Brubeck studied with the classical composer Darius Milhaud (a major influence), formed the experimental Jazz Workshop Ensemble, and then his first quartet in 1951. He was already preoccupied with attempting to divert jazz from its usual swing-patterns and song structures, using time-signatures and devices (such as rondos and fugues) drawn from his classical background.

But if the repertory of the emerging Dave Brubeck Quartet was different, so was its remarkable alto saxophonist Paul Desmond who originally composed the great 'Take Five' out of drummer Joe Morello's practice-patterns. Desmond's sound could be as seductive as a whisper, with a delicacy closer to the tone of a flute than a saxophone. When the remarkable Joe Morello and bassist Gene Wright joined the band in 1956 and 57, the classic Brubeck quartet took off.

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