Single Review: Dave Brubeck – Unsquare Dance
I’ve always admired the complexity of jazz music. It’s one of those genres that constantly keeps me on the edge of my seat due to the intricate techniques that are involved, such as complicated time signatures, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz legend Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance is one of the tunes that epitomises why jazz is such a cool but underrated genre.
Unsquare Dance is written in a 7/4 time signature. It starts with a hand-clapping percussion section. This perfectly lays down the rhythm for Eugene Wright’s bluesy bassline. The bizarre rhythm of the handclaps makes it hard not to appreciate how much precision goes into a genre like jazz. The 7/4 time signature also has a very unsettling quality to it, as the rhythm is very uneven compared to a simplistic 4/4 drum beat.
Brubeck’s smooth yet scattered piano phrases finally come in to play. Unsquare Dance can be essentially divided into two sections. One being Brubeck’s cool piano licks and the other consisting of Joe Morello’s intriguing drum solo on the rim of a snare drum. The rimshot solo remains prominent throughout most of the song. It’s fascinating to hear how the rim of a snare drum is emphasised in a piece like Unsquare Dance as instruments like drums don’t possess conventional musical notes like guitars.
“The bizarre rhythm of the handclaps makes it hard not to appreciate how much precision goes into a genre like jazz. The 7/4 time signature also has a very unsettling quality to it…”
It’s really rare to have segments that are predominantly dedicated to drums in genres such as pop or rock. However this feature is a staple of jazz music as every instrument is given a chance to shine. Even though Unsquare Dance clocks in at just under two minutes, the disjointed melodies are mesmerising to listen to. The polyphonic musical textures are constantly changing in order to complement one another in the midst of difficult time signatures.
Brubeck effortlessly comes back in with his slick piano phrases. The piece ends with a piano riff taken from a 19th century American folk song: Turkey In The Straw. It can be argued that this melody evens out the rhythm of Unsquare Dance as it subtly strays away from the complex 7/4 time signature. This brings the song to a satisfying close.
Jazz legend Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance is a complex and fascinating piece of music. Being written over fifty years ago, it still puts most of today’s music to shame. This is because of the incredible techniques it internalises such as unsettling rhythms and difficult time signatures. Despite Unsquare Dance lasting under two minutes, it gives an insight into how spontaneous jazz is. It is one of the very few genres that has the freedom to break the typical conventions of music. Unsquare Dance is most certainly the definition of the word ‘cool’.
The Breakdown | Single Review: Dave Brubeck – Unsquare Dance
An extraordinary 56 years after it’s release in 1961, Unsquare Dance still stands the test of time as it remains as one of Dave Brubeck’s most famous pieces to date. In the space of two minutes, Brubeck and his quartet makes jazz sound ridiculously easy to play.