The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out (1959), 6/10

Brubeck’s piano and Desmond’s alto playing shine bright through very well composed, and at this point legendary, cool jazz. I prefer the sparse, mellow and delicate style explored on tracks like “Strange Meadow Lark” over the punchier “Blue Rondo a la Turk” or “Take Five”, but both styles work well and accentuate the band’s strengths as a group, always maintaining an air of graceful and tender subtlety, even when exploring emotionally charged sounds or interplay. Unfortunately some tracks are more affecting than others, and though it is a high bar to reach, songs making up the beef of the record like “Three to Get Ready”, “Kathy’s Waltz” or even the lively yet confusingly empty “Everybody’s Jumpin’” don’t live up to the record’s romantic efficacy and slow the momentum, something that can stop a cool jazz record in its tracks and ultimately kill the album experience after a time. That momentum is not revived until the closer “Pick Up Sticks” but by then it is too late, any trace of life has puttered out of an expired listening experience. The performances, from a technical standpoint, are never truly lacking, but the passion ebbs at key moments that leave a feeling of cold emptiness, especially after such a warming and wistful opening trio of songs. There are far more consistent jazz records, even within the confines of cool jazz, the most obvious being Kind of Blue, the less blatantly obvious coming from Bill Evans, Lennie Tristano and Coltrane both before and since the release of Time Out. In short, the highs are quite high, but the consistent lows drain an otherwise quite moving first half of the album. A clearly overrated, entirely frontloaded jazz record that continues to perplex with an odd inconsistency in composition quality and album flow.