Monday, March 18, 2013

Double-Take Five

Hmmm. What's a father to say about this one?

I'm not exactly sure where it came from. My children have heard Take Five a million times in our house, of course. We're catholic in our tastes, and Brubeck is a staple in the audio stable of anyone that's not a barbarian. But this is not our --my wife and I, I mean --idea.

It's the kids' idea to play it. We homeschool the kids. Well, my wife homeschools the kids, and I try not to mess it up too badly. Take a big bite, and keep chewing, we counsel them. This seems more than a big bite to me. I've watched it dozens of times already. I find it kind of astonishing. But better than that --I find it entertaining. I'll put this version of Take Five on my mp3 player and erase the original, and never look back.

The Heir is doing all the heavy lifting. He is playing three parts on the recording. He has learned to play the bass fairly well, even though he only recently started messing around with it. He tried to cajole a handful of his friends to play along with him, but they all fall out almost immediately. He decided to do it himself. With the help of my readers, he's able to record multiple tracks now, and makes the most of it. It's a tiny little thing, his multitrack. But it works. He recorded the rhythm guitar part along with his brother, in one take, and then added the bass, and then the melody and the solo. His little brother never misses, so he gets to go back to playing Minecraft right away.

I know him, the Spare Heir. He's thinking of playing Minecraft the whole time he's playing Take Five. I'm certain of that, because I remarked to him, after the last cymbal strike decayed into hiss and the recorder was turned off, that I thought he played really well, and he looked at me funny and immediately started in with: My Minecraft mod has such-and-such and so-and-so in it and blah, blah, blah...

Honestly, I don't know how he does it. He's still only nine. I can't play Take Five properly on the drums. There is no one in Oxford County, Maine, that can, probably. It's in odd meter: 5/4. If you're unfamiliar with that term, watch it again and count the beats as the measures go by. You're probably used to doing that. 1 2 3 4, you go. Count 1 2 3 4 5 for this song. It's how the song got its name, of course. The saxophone player in Brubeck's band, Paul Desmond wrote the song, which was mightily overlooked when Brubeck passed away a short time ago. Everyone assumed Brubeck had written it.

At any rate, the big one learned to play the saxophone part on the guitar, and they tried it out. The little feller played what was essentially the correct drumbeat by ear. Sat down and did it. I sat down after him, a little curious, and tried it myself. I sounded like I had some sort of affliction, and was falling down the stairs while playing the drums. I jerked around like a fish on a line for a while, then gave up. I mentioned to the boy that what he was playing would be more effective if he opened his hi-hat on the second beat and closed it crisply on the third, to make it sizzle. He immediately added that to what he was playing, further confounding me. It's very prominent on their recording if you look for it. That's the limit of my input into the playing.

Yesterday was special. I promised my wife, and the kids, that for the first time in three years, I'd take a day off. A real day off. No furniture. No writing. I've promised that in the past, many times, and always failed. I wrote everything the day before, and didn't bang my thumb or anything in the woodshop. I volunteered to be their key grip.

We took the furniture out of the dining room, and lugged their stuff in there, and we set up two ladders. Between the ladders, we laid two, eight-foot two-by-fours. We got the two-by-fours from the dump. We took a skateboard, and clamped a video camera to it with two spring clamps from the woodshop. Then I rolled the skateboard back and forth while the kids played. We moved the ladders this way and that for the different shots. We didn't bother filming the bass playing. My wife was out all day on a mission of mercy, and we boys re-enacted The Cat In The Hat, tearing the house asunder while Mom's away, and putting it all back, and doing all the dishes before she got home.

It was, in every way but one, the best day of my life.

(There's a Paypal button in the right column if you want to help us buy the kids a better skateboard for the dolly shots)

[Update: Holy cow, many thanks to Stephen L. for his generous bang on the tipjar!]

[Up-Update: Many thanks to (Sloop) Jon B. in Cholerahdi for helping the kids out!]

[More Up To Date: Many thanks to Philip B. from Yucca Val-E!]

[The continuing saga of Updates: Thanks a ton to Nathan A. with an M.O. from MO.]

[In this episode of As The 45 Turns, we send a metric carload of thanks to Bruce W. from CO for his very generous body-slam of the Paypal button. Stay away from the Donner Pass, Bruce; the world needs you]

[Cutting-edge Update: Many thanks go out to Kathleen M. from New Milford, which is obviously a much better place than Old Milford, because Kathleen M. lives in New Milford]

[Rocky Update: Why are people in Colorado so nice, and nice to us? It's a wonderful mystery. Thanks, Mark M. from Leadville for your very generous Paypal button workout]

[More Up-To-Date Update: Muchas gracias to Tanis E. for supporting the boys. Very generous! Why are people in Texas so kind, and kind to us? We don't know, but we're grateful for it.]

[Update: Maine edition: Tom C. from Bridgton sends along a generous and neighborly show of support. Many thanks!]

[Lone Star Update: Holy cow, Texas has adopted my children. Many thanks to Linda L. from League City. You're a peach!]

[Empire State Uppadate: Arthur R. from Bellport is a pleasant and generous fellow, and we're grateful for it. Many thanks!]

[Up, Up, and Awaydate: I'm speechless. Well-wishes and support keeps coming. Impresario Dave R. from California is continually generous and helpful. Many thanks! ]

[More, More, Moredate: Lee P. from the Keystone State is a generous supporter. Many thanks!]

[California, Somemoredate: Long time reader and commenter and Interfriend Lorraine, who I do not like -- I adore her -- ladles money and good wishes on the boys, and me too. My life is better with Lorraine in it. Many thanks!]

[Week Later Update: Our grateful thanks go out to Peter H. from the North Star State for his generous help and support!]

[So Very Up Update: Many thanks to Signe from Coasta Meysee for supporting the boys!]


hllm said...

Best. Day. Ever. Good for you Sipp. There's nothing like being a father.

Great job on the music boys. I am truly astounded each and every time I see a new video.


julie said...

Wow. Really, wow.

What I like most about this is the fact that *not* having a sax or piano is actually an asset, not a liability. It forces improvisation (and jazz as I understand it is nothing if not improvisation), and the boys are more than adequate to the task. I like the timing - this is a tune that would easily be rushed, but the boys kept it steady and slack-ful all the way through. Well done. I'd pop this into my playlist right now, only my main computer decided to roll over and play dead this weekend. Once it's been resuscitated or replaced, I shall have to remember.

Re. The timing, I find it interesting that people are so thrown by it. With unusual rythmns, I was always taught to break the measures down so that instead of counting each measure "1,2,3,4,5," you count (in this case) "1,2,3;1,2." I always found that helpful, but of course YMMV...

Anonymous said...

Please understand, I mean this in the nicest way...KeeeRap!

Rob De Witt said...

Just......gawgeous. Every line perfect, great time, no rush. Perfect.

And for Dad, my favorite Paul Desmond story, which I have likely sent along previously, but oh well:

Desmond was apparently renowned among his peers for showing up with beautiful women in tow, models and actresses etc. At a later time somebody asked him whatever happened to all that arm candy, and his reply was "Aw, those chicks always marry some cat that owns a factory or something. That's the way it always ends: not with a whim but a banker."

Charles said...

Outstanding, simply outstanding...

RonF said...

The Spare Heir is good in math, isn't he? As well as Son #1, I'd guess. I'm an alumni of the school on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge that will NEVER have a team in the NCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament. What I find when I interview kids who are looking to get admitted to it is that there is a very high correlation between musical aptitude and mathematical aptitude - and exercising the former helps develop the latter.

There's another tune that made the radio pop charts that was in 5/4 - the theme to the TV show Mission Impossible. When they made the movie they cheated - the first few bars were in 5/4 but then they switched off to 4/4. The drum part is a bit flashier, perhaps Unorganized Hancock would like it.

BJM said...


Maybe it's time to think about publishing mp3s? I'd pay for/download this one for sure...or does that open up a huge can o' DRM worms?

Sam L. said...

Danged GOOD! I'm just wondering whether they oughta be wearing hats with 1" brims or 4-5" brims.

Leslie said...

Best day ever, indeed. I told you it wasn't just the hat. They are so impressive.

vanderleun said...

Too soon to know about the Spare, but the Heir will never, ever, lack for female companionship.

Just another reason for me to resent him.

leelu said...

What Gerard said...

Just. Wow!

Anonymous said...

Very nice!
Not to burst your bubble or anything, but this weekend I saw Ronnie Burrage and his band in an intimate setting, playing some outrageous hot jazz. When Ronnie was nine years old he played with Count Basie... the guy's a phenom. The Spare is amazing for not coming from a heavily musical scene household, and the Heir is developing his chops very nicely.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Hank- Many thanks.

Hi Julie- Thanks. The tempo thing is interesting. It's common for drummers to play along with a click track, a metronomic cue of some kind, which is erased after he's done. We have no way of doing that, so the boys just play together. They keep good time.

I was taught 5/4 timekeeping just as you learned it. The little feller just hears it. Some people have a knack for such things, I guess.

Hi anon- Thanks for reading and commenting.

Hi Rob- That's an awesome quip. They were interesting and commendable people. Paul Desmond left the recording rights to this song to the American Red Cross. Makes them 100 grand a year or so.

Thanks, Charles

Hi Ron- Yes, he is good at math. Good catch. I had lots of friends at MIT when I lived in Boston way back when. I must admit I'm always impressed to hear someone attended there. I remember Mission Impossible theme quite well. That would be lotsa fun. Jazz flute might be a problem.

Hi BJM- Thanks. I encourage the boys to keep pushing on and doing and learning new things, and that doesn't seem like such a far-fetched idea to me any longer. To record a song and sell it, they need to get performance rights from the rights holder. Someone's estate (probably)has already claimed this performance for themselves, and will likely monetize it on YouTube. But if the boys keep on like this, I think they will eventually make legal mp3s and sell them.

Hi Sam- Many thanks.

Hi Leslie- Many thanks.

Gerard! Play guitar, get girls.

Hi Leelu- Many thanks.

Hi anon- My son is not a prodigy. He's something, though.

Philip said...


TmjUtah said...

I thought the guitar was a little... restrained right at the beginning.

Well, I was wrong. The beginning was just the warmup for a sweet, sweet musical/visual pitch that I will never, ever hear/see again for the first time.

Well freakin' done.

Anonymous said...

Well I was astounded but the cabinet looks distressed

Anonymous said...

Dave Grusin has a Gershwin CD collection, and one of the tracks is Fascinatin' Rhythm. Except they do it in 5/4. Your kids will love it:

Golden West said...

What a delight - thank you!

julie said...

Wow - this video is featured in the overnight thread over at Ace's tonight! Well deserved, and well done!

El Polacko said...

Hey Sipp,

Kind of off subject, but are you and yours familiar with Daryl Hall's (of Hall & Oates) 'Live from Daryl's House' website and now cable tee vee show?

If not, it's worth checking out to see Hall and his absolutely crack band getting together with some of the best musicians out there past & present, having fun playing music and hanging out.

I haven't seen a clunker yet, and learned about some great players & I would never have other wise.

Tell the boys to keep up the good work.

Too bad they won't be able to see Brubeck live anymore.

Setecastronomy said...

All good musicians know there is a world of difference between playing notes and making music. This is a superb example of the latter.

Russell said...

Good grief, what have you done, Sipp?

These aren't just kids noodling about.

I put this on the background and there is no way a schlub like me could possibly tell the difference between your boys and a minimalist band of veteran players.

The Heir completely nails the sax part.

And the Spare? Yeah, I'm wordless.

Whatever you are doing, don't start now. It seems to be working just fine.

KCFleming said...

Wunnerful, jus' wunnerful.

shoreacres said...

I'm just speechless. Every now and again in the learning process you can actually witness one of those quantitative leaps. I think the boys just took one while my back was turned.