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Book Excerpts

Paul Desmond: Take Ten

By Published: December 3, 2008
"The nicest thing;" Wright said, "one day he asked me when we were playing with Dave, 'Would you mind doing a date with me?' I told him I'd love to. He said, 'I want to do "Take Ten" and I'd like for you to play with me.' Fine. Wonderful. So we got together and we did some other standards; two sessions. I never expected to do anything with him because I didn't feel I was in the direction he and Jim Hall were going. But we did it and it was a ball."

Nestled among the standards in the box set reissue of Easy Living, are Wright's blues "Rude Old Man" and Desmond's "Blues for Fun," evidence of Desmond's and Hall's ability to find limitless possibilities in the good old basic, unadorned blues.

Percy Heath described the quartet dates with Desmond, Hall and Kay as, "All fun. Paul was a beautiful player. He was one of the guys who was not affected by the Bird mania. He had his own thing going. He was a gentle soul, and his music reflected the beauty of Paul Desmond. We met occasionally and had a taste. He used to call me "Heathcliff," and I had a nickname for him, "Monsieur Dangereuse" because Paul was so quiet and he'd always have some very elegant ladies, so I called him dangerous, in that sense."

The RCA albums constitute a collective highlight in Desmond's discography. The quartet set the pattern for the group he would form following the dissolution of the Brubeck group and Paul's intermittent retirement. The Desmond-Hall albums did not dramatically increase the RCA bottom line in the sixties, but the company and its successor, BMG, have repackaged and reissued them in a steady stream over the past four decades. They have become staples in the basic library of jazz recordings, influential among musicians and beloved of a wide range of listeners.

Learn more about Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.

© 2005, Doug Ramsey

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Featured Story: Bob Willoughby

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