Shawna Kennedy left a comment on my previous post on music in odd meters that made something click. She pointed out that in Turkish and Romany music, 9/8 is often divided as 2+2+2+3, unlike the Western triple-triple feel (3+3+3). That style of 9/8 music would be an “odd meter” while other 9/8 music would not. When I read her comment about “1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3,” Dave Brubeck’s tune Blue Rondo à la Turk started playing in my head. I love that song. I first heard it over 20 years ago and I still whistle it fairly often. My kids probably recognize the tune even though they haven’t heard the recording.
Now I finally get what “à la Turk” means. It must be a reference to the Turkish rhythm of the 9/8 theme. You can hear a short excerpt of Blue Rondo à la Turk at here.
Update: The article on Blue Rondo in Wikipedia says that it was based on Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca. I listened to Mozart’s rondo. It’s a famous tune — you’d probably recognize it — but I didn’t know it by name. I would never have drawn a connection between the Mozart rondo and Brubeck’s rondo. Maybe the Wikipedia article is wrong, or maybe Brubeck’s imagination moved pretty far from his inspiration.