The Dave Brubeck Quartet‘s iconic 1959 album, Time Out was nearly not made. Columbia Records feared taking a chance on an entirely original album with “undanceable” rhythms with strange cover art. Yet, 64 years later, a performance of Time Out packed the Piedmont Music Center in downtown Winston-Salem. Held as a part of the 2023 Music Carolina SummerFest, this concert tasked saxophonist Robert Faub, pianist Federico Pivetta, bassist Matt Kendrick, and drummer John Wilson with providing their take on the quartet’s legendary work. Before venturing into the asymmetry of “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” however, the local quartet provided a prelude of Juan Tizol’s “Perdido” and Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” – two compositions that fall more softly and naturally on the average musical ear. It is here that we were introduced to the group’s dynamic before launching into the full performance of Time Out.

While the quartet performed the Tizol and Brubeck works, there was a physical copy of Time Out sitting onstage with the band, S. Neil Fujita’s cover art staring out into the audience. Before the first piece from Time Out was performed, Pivetta pulled the vinyl (his own early press of the album) out of the sleeve and placed it on the stand, side one facing out and ready to be played. The quartet launched into their “side one” portion of the program, featuring the hectic “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” the piano-heavy “Strange Meadowlark,” and, of course, “Take Five.” As their performance went on, I noticed how each player would structure their solos – especially Pivetta and Faub’s – taking small quotes from the solos recorded by Brubeck and saxophonist Paul Desmond and then branching into their own ideas. In this way, I found the balance between Pivetta and Faub’s solos and those of Kendrick and Wilson, who had less material from the album to work with, to be particularly effective. There were still plenty of original ideas from the group, while also hitting on certain notes present in the album that allow those solos to live on through their playing and provide an historical basis for their performance.

My personal favorite side of the album, though, is side two, featuring “Three to Get Ready,” “Kathy’s Waltz,” “Everybody’s Jumpin’,” and “Pick Up Sticks.” I am drawn to this side because each piece, especially “Three to Get Ready” and “Kathy’s Waltz,” has a carefree, almost childlike nature. Once you begin to pick apart the construction of these “childlike” compositions, however, it is easy to see that they are not so simple, still featuring the polyrhythms and polymeter that are the entire purpose of the album. But, the performer’s job is to overcome those difficulties and still present a performance that emphasizes the happy-go-lucky melodies and themes, which is exactly what Faub, Pivetta, Kendrick, and Wilson were able to do.

We are lucky that Time Out was able to be made. It felt right that this concert was held in the Piedmont Music Center’s piano showroom, where portraits of famous composers throughout history are hung all around, watching and listening along with us. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, like the great classical composers, brought new, foreign, radical (to some) ideas to audiences around the world. And just like we are lucky to have an album like Time Out, we are also lucky to have performers like Pivetta, Faub, Kendrick, and Wilson to keep this music alive decades later.

The 2023 Music Carolina SummerFest will continue with performances through August 30th.