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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Book Reviews

Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond

By Published: June 5, 2005

After the quartet disbanded at the end of 1967, Desmond and Brubeck remained in touch, playing occasional dates, touring Europe in 1972 (with Gerry Mulligan making it a quintet) and the U.S. in 1976 (a reunion of the classic quartet with Joe Morello and Eugene Wright). Even when Desmond was seriously ill with cancer, he made one final appearance with Brubeck in early 1977, a dedicated musician and friend to the very end.

Ideally, Desmond's recordings should be required listening as one reads this massive volume. Ramsey discusses a number of the sessions in sufficient detail without going overboard, exploring both his numerous dates with Brubeck and his impressive, but far too infrequent sessions as a leader. What is interesting about Desmond's recordings under his own name is that most of them omit a piano. Initially this was done to differentiate them from the sound of the Brubeck Quartet, but he found such strong support from guitarist Jim Hall and later, Ed Bickert, that a piano was no longer a necessity. Likewise, his two official studio meeting with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan were pianoless dates, though both would join Brubeck for a successful tour of Europe in 1972. Paul Caulfield documents the vast majority of Desmond's known recordings in an extensive discography that covers his work as a leader and sideman, even including a number of bootlegs, though he was not able to correct the mislabeled songs on some of them, due to not having copies available to audition.

Doug Ramsey has set the standard for jazz biography with this comprehensive volume. Every jazz fan seeking to learn more about this complicated but memorable musician will be delighted with Ramsey's remarkable portrait of his good friend, who is greatly missed.

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