Take Five

Late 1981, 1982, Bethesda, MD


David Robinowitz – piano
Adam Gibbons – drums
Chris Armacost (probably) – alto sax
Some other dude – tenor sax  (update: Comments reveal this to be Joey Gannon)
Mark Lerner – bass

It would be a huge understatement to say that jazz is not my strong suit. I’ve spent much of my life avoiding it and occasionally openly scorning it. The past 5 or 6 years, however, have found me delving into jazz a little bit more (as a listener, not a player). I like the dense, unexpected chords, and I like jazz-like compositions: Alec Wilder, Charles Mingus, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite, Astor Piazzolla. I do have problems with long solos (and a bunch of folks basically soloing at the same time) and I’m not a fan of the saxophone. But I try not to parade the limits of my taste as some sort of virtue. It’s good to like things, and trying to find your way into someone’s art is a noble effort, infinitely more valuable than kneejerk dismissal.

All of that said, I’m a little perplexed by this entry in EVERY BAND I’VE EVER BEEN IN. If the cassette tape I have is to be believed (along with some corroboration via email from pianist David Robinowitz), I spent much of my senior year in high school playing in a jazz quintet with the almost supernaturally cliched name Take Five. With the possible exception of the tenor sax player, of whom I have no recollection whatsoever, all of the guys in this group were younger than me. [Ed: see comments] David and Adam were juniors, and Chris was a sophomore. (There’s also a slight chance I’m wrong and Chris wasn’t in this band at all, but I’m 99% sure it was him.)

I’ve put out feelers to try to identify the tenor player, but have had no luck so far. I’ll update this entry if I do. [update! it was Joey Gannon!]

These guys loved jazz. I had a typical young bassist’s reverence for some flashy players—I dragged a girlfriend off to see Jaco Pastorius on a few occasions—but I was (and mostly remain) a big rock dummy. Bassists at my high school were pretty thin on the ground, though, so I was asked to be in this group. I hope I had no part in naming it.

I remember Chris Armacost took sax lessons with a guy who took lessons with Phil Woods. I recall thinking: Who cares? And who is Phil Woods? It sounds cool to me now, though.

Adults love to see kids wearing ties and playing jazz, so we got quite a few nice-paying gigs for grownup parties. One was some sort of fancy fundraiser at the World Bank, the others were all at people’s houses.

Our cassette tape demo says it was recorded “at JRB Studios in February 1982.” I don’t recall the session at all. We recorded Toots Thielemans’s “Bluesette,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave,” Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” Tadd Dameron’s “Lady Bird,” and the ubiquitous “Autumn Leaves.” Actually, I suppose these are all sort of ubiquitous, but they were exotic to me and some still are: The cassette’s songs weren’t listed, and I would not have know the names of some of these tunes if I hadn’t sent snippets to my friend Reuben Radding to identify.

Listening to these now, I’m mighty impressed with the young players and grateful for no obvious clams on my part. Anyone with an unhealthy curiosity about the other two tracks from this demo could hear them here.

Post Mortem

Adam and David may be familar to readers from the Walt Whitman High School Stage Band post, and there was some rumor that Adam played drums at one time for GHE—rumor that Adam has since laid to rest. At any rate, both of these gentlemen will  appear here in a future entry or two. Adam lives in Boston and still plays drums a bit, in addition to singing and playing guitar; he’s a community organizer and father. David has gone on to become a doctor and I’ve admired his gorgeous family on Facebook. Chris seems to live in Minneapolis, and David tells me Chris is “in business” and worked in Japan for a while. My Facebook message to him went unanswered, a blow that I’m still trying to cope with. As for Take Five’s mysterious fifth member, perhaps the comments section will reveal the truth. [Ed: it did.]

Say, leave a comment, won’t you?

4 Comments on “Take Five”

  1. Dave R says:

    Missing sax player = Joey Gannon!
    I was also a sophomore. I skipped a year of high school to have more time to get life advice from you in college. I’m scared to listen to the snippets!

  2. Mark Lerner says:

    Do not be scared! Wrong notes can be blamed on tape wow and flutter. And youth. And me.

    So it was Joey, huh? I guess I have to go back and edit this post a bit. Thanks, Dave. I forgot you skipped a year of high school. What a smarty pants!

    (Yes, dear readers, Dave R. followed me to Columbia University after high school, where I assure you he received no useful advice from me.)

  3. Mark Amft says:

    Question(s): were you ever in a band called Wow and Flutter? Was there ever a band called Wow and Flutter? Would you like to be in a band called Wow and Flutter? Statement: listen to more James Brown and you will like the saxophone. Also “Shotgun” and “Soul Makossa”. And Fela.

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