Why is Take Five so famous?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

“Take Five” is an incredibly famous jazz composition that has stood the test of time for several reasons. Firstly, its unique time signature of 5/4 sets it apart from most other jazz standards. This unconventional rhythm captures the listener’s attention and curiosity right from the start. It challenges the typical 4/4 time signature that dominates much of popular music, creating a fresh and exciting sound.

The composition’s catchy melody, composed by saxophonist Paul Desmond, is another factor that contributes to its fame. The memorable opening saxophone line instantly hooks the listener and stays in their mind long after the song has ended. Desmond’s smooth and lyrical playing style adds a layer of sophistication to the piece, making it accessible to both jazz aficionados and casual listeners.

Additionally, the collaboration between Desmond and Dave Brubeck, the pianist and bandleader of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, played a significant role in the song’s success. Brubeck’s innovative approach to jazz, combining traditional elements with avant-garde influences, helped elevate “Take Five” to new heights. The quartet’s tight-knit and cohesive performance showcases their musical prowess and chemistry, adding to the song’s appeal.

Furthermore, the impact of “Take Five” extends beyond the jazz genre. Its influence can be heard in various other musical genres, such as rock, pop, and even film scores. The driving rhythm and infectious melody have inspired countless musicians to experiment with odd time signatures and incorporate them into their own compositions. This widespread influence has solidified “Take Five” as a jazz standard that transcends boundaries and continues to captivate audiences across different generations.

Another reason for the song’s fame is its association with popular culture. In 1961, NBC chose “Take Five” as the theme song for its morning news program, the Today Show. This exposure to a wide television audience introduced the song to millions of households across the United States. Its catchy melody became synonymous with the show and contributed to the song’s recognition beyond the jazz community.

Moreover, the success of “Take Five” paved the way for other jazz compositions in unconventional time signatures. Lalo Schifrin, the composer of the iconic “Mission: Impossible” theme, acknowledged the influence of “Take Five” on his own work. The use of 5/4 time in Schifrin’s composition, as well as in other subsequent jazz and popular music pieces, can be traced back to the groundbreaking nature of “Take Five.”

“Take Five” achieved its fame due to its unique time signature, memorable melody, the collaboration between Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck, its influence on other genres, and its association with popular culture. This jazz standard continues to captivate listeners and inspire musicians, solidifying its place in the American musical lexicon.