On listening to Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet the meaning of its title is obvious; the piece is written with a 5/4 groove throughout. The groove established first by the drum kit and is soon joined by the syncopated piano Ebm and Bbm chords. The irregular time signature creates and maintains rhythmic interest and unity throughout the piece. Cool jazz, the style this piece exemplifies, typically contains irregular phrasing and rhythmic ideas. In Take Five, the phrasing of the melody played by the saxophone is in regular 4 bar phrases; it is, therefore, in the time signature that we find the rhythmic interest.

The piece has the ‘cool,’ subdued sound common to the style. The rhythmic repetition is the first indication of this. The lack of dynamic variation within the piece, which sits predominantly around mezzo forte throughout, is the other way in which this piece creates the cool jazz mood.

Melodically, the piece features very little straying from its Eb natural minor pitch world, including only an A natural (representing the flat 5 of the blues scale) as an accented passing note. The only other time it strays from this pitch world is during the sequence in the second 8 bars of the melody, where chromatic passing notes are introduced. The repetition of this melody, both as a whole throughout the piece and within in it – repetition of the semiquaver rhythmic cell, within the antecedent in bars 1-4 of the melody, identical rhythm and melodically similar content in the antecedent and consequent in bars 1-8 of the melody, the sequence in bars 8-16 of the melody – create unity, but, more importantly, add to the subdued, cool mood of the piece.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five – Spotify