Book review: Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, by Stephen A. Crist

Stuart Nicholson
Tuesday, April 28, 2020

“Crist marshals his research to maximum effect, clearing away canards and myth with documented fact as well as adding valuable insight towards achieving a better understanding of Brubeck”

Part of the ongoing “Oxford Studies in Recorded Jazz”, Crist’s study is certainly one of the best of the series — thorough, well researched and well structured. Its value lies in the way he places Brubeck’s 1959 Time Out in the overall context of the pianist’s career, illustrating to those perhaps not familiar with Brubeck’s oeuvre that the album was the culmination of many aspects of his style, and not the product of a light bulb moment by the pianist or his producer. In fact, Columbia were not keen on the idea at all, insisting on an album of standards (Gone With the Wind) as a kind of insurance policy should Time Out die a death in an unforgiving music marketplace. It didn’t of course, surprising everyone when the returns came in — not least Brubeck and Columbia Records — since, as Brubeck’s producer Teo Macero told his bosses, “It’s selling like a single, not like an album”, with one tune from it, ‘Take Five’, figuring on the Top Ten. By 2011, the album attained double platinum status for achieving sales of 2,000,000 or more.

Crist’s biographical detail is both concise and precise, given the pagination the series works with. With the help of Brubeck, whom he interviewed on numerous occasions between 1997 and his passing in 2012, his wife Iola and members of the Brubeck family, detailed research in what was then Brubeck Archive in the Holt-Atherton Special Collections in the University of Pacific Library in Stockton, California plus access to the Teo Macero Collection and the George Avakian Papers in the New York Public Library, Crist marshals his research to maximum effect, clearing away canards and myth with documented fact as well as adding valuable insight towards achieving a better understanding of Brubeck, his music and the historical context from which his music emerged.

Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, Stephen A. Crist (Oxford University Press PB) £14.99. Visit OUP for information

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