Creativity Music & Art
R. L. Solberg  

Take Five, People

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been a fan of Dave Brubeck. Back then, as a young drummer and guitarist, I was going through a phase where I was really into progressive, technical music. I loved Rush, Dixie Dreggs, Kansas, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Stravinsky, etc. And the power metal band I formed a little later on with some friends (Avatar) was very much into odd-time signatures and exploratory harmonic landscapes. It was about wanting to challenge ourselves as musicians.

At some point along the way, I was introduced to Brubeck’s Time Out album on which all the tracks are in odd time and I loved it. Not only is it technically challenging to nail the odd-meter grooves and licks they were playing, it‘s doubly difficult to do so with the musicality and panache that the Dave Brubeck Quartet delivered on that album. It didn’t feel like they were counting beats in their heads while they were performing, trying not to mess up. The songs are so well-written, and the musicians so talented, that it just felt like they were grooving and making music. And, oh yeah, if you happen to count it out you might realize they are not playing in 4/4 time.

So I suppose it was only a matter of time until I took a stab at a Brubeck song on guitar. Oddly enough, the thing that inspired me to give this a go was the acquisition of a new Marshall Origin 50 combo amplifier. Marshall is world-renowned as the go-to amplifier for rock guitar players from Jimi Hendrix to Slash. But when I plugged a Les Paul into this amp and cranked it up I was struck by how clean and gorgeous it sounded. So I decided to try performing a jazz song with it and the video below is the result.

The song I chose, Take 5, is in 5/4 time and on the original recording the melody is played by a tenor saxophonist Paul Desmond, who is also the composer of this particular piece. I found a lead sheet online and once I had it “under my fingers” I transposed it from the original key of E-flat down to B because I felt it sounded better in that range on the guitar.

Once I had the song down fairly well I started putting together a track. I first sketched out the arrangement I want to go with and then programmed the drums using Toontrack Superior Drummer software instrument plugin in Logic. I was originally just planning to make an audio recording, but then I thought it might be fun to make a video of my “one man jazz trio.” So I set up a couple of cameras (my iPhone and my laptop) in my home studio and went to town laying down the tracks.

Nerd Alert: Gear Data

For the rhythm guitar, I played my bright orange Ibanez Art Core AF75TDG (semi-hollow body) named Flash through the Marshall amp. The bass was recorded direct using my Ibanez Ergodyne Bass Guitar. And the melody/lead guitar was played on my black 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom named Mr. Underhill.

For the guitars, a Line 6 POD HD500 pedalboard was used in front of the amp for compression and reverb. It also provided the overdrive during the last half of the guitar solo. The guitars were recorded through the amp at a pretty loud volume. I used a Shure SM57 on the grill of the amp, and a Neumann M147 (large-diaphragm condenser mic) about 3.5 feet away.

The mics were run through a Focusrite Scarlett pre-amp into Logic. Within Logic, the guitars were compressed slightly and a stereo delay was added to the overdrive section of the guitar solo. There was no EQ added to the guitar tracks. In the final mix, the two lead guitar mics were blended as follows: the close mic (SM57) was panned slightly left and makes up about 70% of the tone, and the room mic (M147) was panned slightly right and provides about 30% of the tone.

Enough Yacking: Let’s See The Video Already.

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