We hate playing ‘Take Five’. Quit requesting it.

Prepare to be handed this.

Prepare to be handed this.

OK, it’s time this got put out there again, because the message just doesn’t seem to be getting across.

So here it is:  We hate playing ‘Take Five’.  Quit requesting it.

Even if only a tiny fraction of club-goers heed this advice, it’s still worth it.  That’s how deep our hatred of this song goes.  And by ‘our’, I mean every jazz musician currently walking the planet whose name is not Dave Brubeck.  So, every jazz musician currently walking the planet.

Don’t get me wrong: ‘Take Five’ is a perfectly OK song, especially for the year 1959, when it was originally released.  But that was fifty-four years ago.  We have moved on.

In case you need further persuasion, permit me:

1.   This is what is commonly known as a ‘lazy request’.  If the only jazz tune you know by name is ‘Take Five’, then you need to learn more jazz tunes before approaching the bandstand.  Understand that if you ask for this tune, you are following in the footsteps of about 5,689 other Lazy Requesters who have approached the bandstand before you.  That could explain the baleful stares from the musicians when ‘Take Five’ comes tripping effortlessly off your tongue.  It’s like asking a mariachi band for ‘Guantanamera’.  Or an accordionist for ‘La Vie En Rose’.  Or Billy Ray Cyrus for ‘Achy Breaky’–no, come to think of it, you better stick with that one for Billy Ray.

Otherwise, understand that there is a great big world of wonderful songs out there.  Listen to a few of them.

2.   Have you ever even listened to the original version of ‘Take Five’?  If not, do it now.  I’ll wait five and a half minutes.

OK, what do we notice about this tune?  Catchy melody, yes.  Lovely, albeit short, alto saxophone solo by Paul Desmond, the composer of the piece.  And even though the tune itself has a bridge with an interesting structure, you wouldn’t know it during his solo, because it all takes place over ONE FRICKIN’ CHORD.  Have you ever noticed this?  Doubtful, because most requesters stop listening after they hear the melody played.

What’s next?  A drum solo.  A long-ass, listless drum solo.  Over that same endless monochordal vamp.

Surely, now that we’re five minutes in, Dave Brubeck will weigh in with an exciting piano solo, right?  Kick up the excitement, right?  Wrong.  Time for Desmond to return and play the melody out.  So in its original version, the bandleader declines to solo.

Does that tell you something?

A stageful of beboppers would sooner work for tips on Sixth Street than endlessly revisit a tune with ONE CHORD.  You want to endear yourself, request ‘Donna Lee’.  Or ‘Moments Notice’.  Or even ‘All the Things You Are’.  But not a tune where the all solos are built on ONE FRICKIN’ CHORD.  That’s like hiring Picasso to paint a mural with a popsicle stick.  That’s like asking Wolfgang Puck to produce a banquet using only grits.  That’s like–not cool.  So quit it.

OK, I’ve hammered my point to death.  Moving on!

3.   This tune is in 5/4 meter.  A lot of people know this already, but it doesn’t stop them from trying to dance to it.  After all, they requested it, right?  Gotta dance to it.  Problem is, dancing in five works best if you have two and a half legs.  Excited pygmies notwithstanding, it’s a tough feat.

Come to think of it, this is the only payoff in playing this tune: watching people attempt to gyrate spastically in 5/4.  Especially if they’re already somewhat inebriated.  So yeah, go for it.  After some practice, you may even be ready to dance in seven.

4.  It’s not even the best tune in the Dave Brubeck book.  Far from it, in fact.  If you’re set on hearing some Brubeck, how about In Your Own Sweet Way?  That’s a gorgeous tune.  Or It’s a Raggy Waltz?  Or Blue Rondo a la Turk?  Plenty of great music from Brubeck, meters both mixed and unmixed.

So by all means, come on out and enjoy yourself.  Have a good time, support live music, tip a few.  But don’t be lazy about it.  Chances are, if you step outside your fallback request, you might find something else you really enjoy.  And that’s what it’s all about, right?  Enjoying life and keeping things interesting.

And if you’re one of those people who insists on requesting ‘My Way’–kick yourself in the butt.  Right now.  Harder.



  1. Donald Clarke

    Laughing out loud!… Okay, so can you play “In The Mood” please?

  2. Sure, but it will cost you.

  3. Susan Cummings

    Given that Take Five was probably the jazz I heard as a child, it is amazing that I enjoy jazz as an adult. I would never request that piece from you ever. I solemnly swear.

    • For you, Susan, we would play it.

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