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Paul Desmond

Paul Desmond is widely recognized for his genius as a melodic improviser and as the benchmark of cool jazz sax players. His warm, elegant tone was one that he admittedly tried to make sound like a dry martini. He and Art Pepper were virtually the only alto players of their generation not directly influenced by Charlie Parker. Desmond was influenced by Lester Young, but took it further, into melodic and harmonic worlds never before traveled by reedmen -- especially in the upper registers. Desmond is best known for his years with the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959-1967) and his well-known composition "Take Five." He met Brubeck in the late '40s and played with his Octet. The Quartet formed toward the end of 1950 and took final shape with Eugene Wright and Joe Morello a few years later. Jazz at Oberlin and Take Five were considered essential purchases by college students of the era, but Jazz Impressions of Japan was its most innovative recording. Desmond played his loping, slow, ordered, and intricate solos in direct contrast to the pianist's obsession with large chords, creating a myriad of textures for melodic and rhythmic counterpoint unlike any heard in jazz. His witty quotations from musicals, classical pieces, and folk songs were also a watermark of his artistry. When the Quartet split in 1967, Desmond began an intermittent yet satisfying recording career. It included dates with Gerry Mulligan for Verve, various sessions with Jim Hall, and a concert with the the Modern Jazz Quartet. He played his last gigs with the Brubeck Quartet at reunions before dying of lung cancer. Desmond's recordings for RCA have gotten box-set treatment and Mosaic issued one of the complete sessions with Hall. There are also reissues from A&M and CTI, though recordings on Artist House and Finesse remain regrettably out of print. ~ Thom Jurek
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Cool Imagination

1. Imagination

2. A Ship Without A Sail

3. Desmond Blue

4. Glad To Be Unhappy

5. That Old Feeling

6. Out Of Nowhere

7. Samba Cantina

8. Here's That Rainy Day

9. Alone Together

10. Bewitched

11. Autumn Leaves

12. My Funny Valentine

13. Samba De Orfeu

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Track List: From The Hot Afternoon

1. October

2. Round 'N Round

3. Faithful Brother

4. To Say Goodbye

5. From The Hot Afternoon

6. Circles

7. Martha & Romao

8. Catavento

9. Canto Latino (Latin Chant)

10. Crystal Illusions

11. Round 'N Round (Alternate)

12. Faithful Brother (Alternate)

13. From The Hot Afternoon (Alternate)

14. Catavento (Alternate)

15. Canto Latino (Alternate)

16. From The Hot Afternoon (Alternate)

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Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Take Ten

2. I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face

3. Theme From Black Orpheus (GH)

4. Hi Lili, Hi Lo

5. Desmond Blue

6. Embarcadero

7. Polka Dots And Moonbeams

8. All The Things You Are

9. El Prince

10. Alone Together

11. A Taste Of Honey

12. O Gato

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Track List: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Remaster)

1. El Condor Pasa

2. So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

3. The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)

4. Mrs. Robinson

5. Old Friends

6. America

7. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

8. Scarborough Fair/Canticle

9. Cecilia

10. Bridge Over Troubled Water

x

Track List: Bossa Antigua

1. Bossa Antigua

2. The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

3. O Gato

4. Samba Cantina

5. Curacao Doloroso

6. Ship Without A Sail

7. Alianca

8. The Girl From East 9th Street

10. Samba Cepeda

Comments

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His alto sax sound was my model long ago. Still working on it.
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I've been looking for a Paul Desmond album called "Easy Livin"
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netmyludwig
Dr. Smooth
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Michael Missiras, Ph.D.
Trumpet/Corn e t / C o m p o s e r
NYC/ arctic1974@g m a i l . c o m

I agree naimijoy251, and I'll take it a step further to be well dressed and present yourself as a professional as well. It's fascinating for me to compare this version with Cotranes version on the Coltrane's Sound album. Two distinctly different reads yet both bring poetically informed.
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naomijoy251
This was done when it was cool to be smart, educated, and well informed, as Desmond was. His sound was closely akin to a flute, rather than a boisterous saxophone.
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I find this album one of the best of any of the Bossa Nova albums made by Americans. It's one of the very few instrumental albums I find totally inspired and satisfying.

Michael Missiras
Trumpet/Corn e t / C o m p o s e r
NYC/ arctic1974@g m a i l . c o m
Report as inappropriate
A strikingly original player much underrated.

Michael Missiras
Trumpet/Corn e t / C o m p o s e r
NYC
arctic1974@g m a i l . c o m
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I grew up in a different culture and it only shows that music has no boundaries.
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Mr Desmond was the Ambassador of Cool Jazz, cool as a popsicle
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I love this song but I am autistic.
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jason.howard . a n d e r s o n
love the cool silky alto very much in the French school of sax
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Paul Desmond was an artist and a gentleman. And funny as hell.
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Hey you cats out there, this it it soooo coool , man.
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Classic in take five
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Paul Desmond sure plays one smooth sax.
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All about the sax
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yanistar09
.
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If a dry martini had a sound..... Positively amazing.
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Paul's night with Brubeck playing 'Take Five' changed my life forever. I've heard it said that Dave wrote it for Joe Morrano. However it evolved, perhaps it was the 5:4 time, and of course Paul's unique velvet tone, it was the pure genius in music of those three.
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P.D. Plays the GLB with the GM
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Jazzy....... l o v e it!
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I attended the last concert of the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1967 in the Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa. The concert was scheduled to go from 8:00 to 11:00 with one half hour intermission .

After the intermission it was if the audience faded away and there was no one left in the room but Dave, Paul Eugene and Joe. They played until nearly 1:00 am. I think they played every song they had ever played together. It was the most memorable night of my life.

And it wasn't recorded
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I like that jazz whisper''let ' s go to my room.....
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Paul Desmond really had a unique sound.
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contact81
An astonishing number of people seem upset by just that one word, infamous, in the article. Take Five could be infamous because OTHER people have covered it and overplayed it, not because there is anything wrong with the original composition. An analogy: Nuclear Fission is infamous now, although Enrico Fermi's work in physics was genius, original, and praise-worth y . I am not saying *I* think it is infamous. But there is a colorable case for it, meaning it wasn't the wrong word.
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jpvigluc
The number of. Comments says it all.....his artistry was a gift to humanity.
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I once tried to tell Paul the huge influence he had on my life as a teenager and ever since. He got nervous and shrugged: It's nice to be appreciated. Indeed.
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galvarez05
1955, at the Florintine Gardens Brubeck & Desmond played like something no one had ever heard BEFORE. SRO, everyone was mesmorized with what these two future Giants were creating, in that dark smoke filled room , i will never forget that night at 9pm i was hook ed for life . thanks you two.
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I especially love the bossa-flavor e d jazz.
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nice one......... . . .
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Was the best
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Infamous means that it is noted for bad aspects.
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Take Five is famous, NOT infamous. The first million-sell i n g jazz composition. This writer needs to read his dictionary
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ladycheltenh a m 3
Love this. my Dad was a sax man.
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Ubiquitous or famous, but definitely not infamous.
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steveandlaur a 7 1 8 9
used to play him out my window in S.F. made the day cooler
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great cool sax blower with Dave Brubeck and Jobim and so on ,blowin up up in heaven...mak i n folks cooolll.
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infamous...c a n mean legendary, fabled, famed, and Take Five is certainly that. It is more commonly used as a pajorative adjective. Take Five, and the album, ushered in a new jazz, one exploring time, and as all things new, had its detractors, who might view Take Five in such a dim light. Thankfully, the public overruled that view.
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depierce
Why infamous composition Take Five? What's infamous about the tune?
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Dave Brubeck-just passed away yesderday 12/5/12 and I just had to hear Paul Desmond toooo-- two greats are doing their music some where in the Beyond !!!!!!!! carlos
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scott.harris 8 4
Paul achieved what is the jazz musicians highest accolade- wonderfully unique. No one is the greatest because there are others who stand out with what they bring ,but few are recognized so easily by their sound (tone). His improvs are inventive and of song quality. There are other greats, but Paul stands alone among that field.
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danielkonikv i d e o
Infamous? Perhaps it was reviled by jazz snobs for it's immense popularity, but that's just hipster horsecrap. We know greatness when we hear it.
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I started listening to Paul in the late 50s. I liked his cool alto sax then and I still like it today.
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dixon23
Pplease don't use the word infamous when you mean famous, look it up.
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never too late -take it up again--yeah Desmond was always the essential essence of cool!!! I hope Anna Kristina (then Shultz) is still alive happy & healthy & still listening & diggin it!!
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ttaormina1
As an Alto Sax player in high school in the late 80's, I can safely say that if I'd known Paul Desmond's music back then I would have never quit playing and would have spent countless hours trying to copy his sound. I would have been a musician today instead of an accountant.
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One of the music-revela t i o n s of my life was being turned on at the end of the 50's- I was 17yrs old- to contemporary jazz artist such as Miles & Desmond (among others) by my 18yr old German girlfriend (1st serious one) Her brother ran a record store & Germans were -& still are -huge jazz appreciators ! Thank you Anna Kristina (nee Shultz) wherever you are!
Report as inappropriate
Very unique sound to Mr. Desmond's playing, he said he wanted to sound like a dry martini. Distinctive, classy, and not over the top. And like so many others have said in here, his collaboratio n with Dave Brubeck will go down as timeless.
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Thank you Pandora. You are a class act. Love your selections.
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How well I still remember being in jr. high (c. 1960) and the beatnik- wannabe kid down the street turned me on to Brubeck and Dersmond together on the Time Out LP. I also remember the day in '77 when news of his death came over the wire at the Chgo. paper I was working at. A bunch of us drank to his memory that sad night. RIP Paul...you'r e still the best there was.
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