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1924-1977 - Jazz musician, best known for his long association with Dave Brubeck.

Paul Desmond was the most purely musical alto sax player who ever lived. He was a kind of geeky looking guy, quiet and self-effacing. He said of himself "I have won several prizes as the world's slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness." He never became truly famous in his own right. He was just a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. However, he wrote "Brubeck's" most famous song - the first million-selling jazz single - Take Five.

In a way, Brubeck and Desmond were a musical odd couple. Brubeck's piano was always about the rhythm, and he tended to be a bit strident at times. Desmond's sax was always about the melody, but he took his instrument far beyond melody, into the zone where every fiber of his reed, every muscle of his body, became part of the sculpture of his sound. If this sounds like hyperbole, listen to "Bluette" from Time Further Out.


This writeup has been devastatingly superseded by the one below. If Whiskydaemon will agree to embed "I have won several prizes as the world's slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness." I will ask to have this removed.

UPDATE:

Alas, the abovementioned writeup was written by a fled noder, who saw fit to have it removed. I don't really know anything about that, but maybe it was another sad and senseless pit of fique.

You should really write something better here, so I can have this little old writeup, (and all this associated meta crap) deleted.

Thank you.

Paul Desmond (1924-1977) was a jazz alto saxophonist, most well known for his contributions to the quartet of Dave Brubeck, and for penning the very well known hit Take Five for the group. However, he was a supremely talented musician who earned the respect of peers such as Charlie Parker, and who made a number of fine recordings with other jazz notables such as Jim Hall, Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker.

Desmond was creatively at his peak in the 1950's, a decade most known for the development of bebop, in jazz terms. However, his style was much more relaxed and obviously melodic than most of the boppers, and he never really embraced the style. His primary influence was probably the great tenor saxophonist Lester Young from the generation before. His improvisations are characterised by long, flowing lines full of melodic invention, and a gentle and relaxed tone that worked exceptionally well in the piano-less quartet he shared with Jim Hall. With his sophisticated and elegant approach, his sound was perhaps the epitomy of cool jazz, as it came to be known (though I don't know of him using that description himself).

He was something of a wit, often making self-deprecating comments about his playing ("I tried practicing for a few weeks and ended up playing too fast"), or his lifestyle ("Sometimes I get the feeling that there are orgies going on all over new York City, and somebody says, `Let's call Desmond,' and somebody else says, 'Why bother? He's probably home reading the Encyclopedia Britannica'"). He had in fact studied creative writing, and wrote a funny article for Punch on touring with the Brubeck quartet. You can find some of his writings and quotes by visiting the links below.

Desmond was a heavy smoker and a drinker, and apparently also dabbled in harder drugs, but it was cigarettes that did most damage, it seems. He passed away in 1977 from lung cancer.

Reading:
wikipedia
puredesmond.ca
an interesting bio

Recommended listening:
If you didn't already hear it, I guess "Take Five" with Brubeck, also "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and other recordings.
"Take Ten" with Jim Hall, Percy Heath and Connie Kay, or any other work with these musicians - there are many compilations.

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