I’m trying to decode "Take Five" and so far I have (for my version) it in the key of F with one flat (B-Flat) and the initial phrase (A Section) is based on a D minor which is the natural minor 6th of F.

The repetitive “walking bass” line I think is A Minor and C Major back to the D Minor. Then the B Section moves to B Flat (Minor?) to C Major to F Major to B Flat Major back to C and it “turns around” a few times before ending up at A Major 7th as the tension chord and then back to the beginning.

In Roman Numeral Notation this sequence (I think) is 6m mainly for the A section, then the B section with the B flat chord is the perfect 4th of F, the C is the perfect 5th of F, then to the 1 F major and back to the 4 for B flat.

Am I even in the ball park for this? I’m hoping somebody can decode Take Five for me and explain why these chord changes seem to be unique when compared with many of the I ii V(7) sequences of many jazz songs.


First off - common jazz sequence is ii-V-I.

Bass line is repetitive D A C - there's no maj or min involved - the piece is in Dm, not F maj.

It's going to be A dominant seventh, rather than major seventh.

The B♭ middle section needs to be thought of as VI of key Dm (i).

You're on the way to working out. Keep going!

  • This is exactly what I was looking for - THANKS! – G Kearny May 24 '20 at 18:20

Here are the chords, going by the piano transcription published in the Time Out book published by Hansen, and transposed from E♭m to Dm for you

Intro vamp
Dm Am7 | % | % | % |
A section:
Dm Am7 | % | % | % |
Dm Am7 | % | % | Dm |
B section:
B♭ Gm6 | Am7 Dm7 | Gm7 C7 | FM7 |
B♭ Gm6 | Am7 Dm7 | Gm7 C7 | Em7 A7 |

Then the A section again.

Yes, Em7, which has a B. You can hear that chord at 0:37 in this video of the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing it.


Well, if you are looking at the actual original, it's not in Dm but E♭m. That's sort of an ugly key to work with unless you are playing alto sax...

  • The original recording is closer to Em, according to what I listen to. I recordedit in the late '60s, in Em - although that was on guitar - maybe a better key for guitar? Whatever might be an ugly key, but it was played on alto, as it happens! However, this doesn't answer any of the question, and ought to be re-posted as a comment, as the key won't make tha slightest difference to the question or any answers. – Tim May 23 '20 at 5:52

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