Doug Ramsey's award-winning, critically acclaimed biography Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond revealed a lot about the late alto saxophonist, a quiet man who was a brilliant musician, humorous writer and quick-witted punster. But even Ramsey didn't learn of this previously unknown session until a few months ago. It was recorded during the making of the album 1975: The Duets with Dave Brubeck. Desmond, who at the time was seeing a young lady in her early twenties, wanted to make a special recording just for her. So the alto saxophonist sang for the first and only time on any record, something that he intended for her ears only, with Brubeck as his sole accompanist.
The first thing that will surprise listeners is Desmond's deep baritone voice, since he was rarely, if ever, heard speaking on any live recording. The inclusion of more than a few of his atrocious puns is less of a mystery, even if one of his asides, ("If you hate my puns, it Cerf's you right ) inserted into "My Funny Valentine, is not up to his usual standard of punishment.
Desmond also plays a bit of alto sax, in addition to making rare appearances on clarinet, tenor sax and even soprano sax, the latter an instrument that hardly anyone knew that he played. Brubeck, who was frequently criticized for being heavy-handed, is the consummate musical partner throughout this session, staying in the background aside from his brief, lyrical solos, though he can't restrain his soft laughter reacting to some of Desmond's best puns. Though Desmond owned a grand piano that he willed to Bradley's (his favorite Manhattan night club), he rarely played piano in public. Yet he was brave enough on this occasion to perform his landmark composition "Take Five as a piano duet with Dave, singing Iola Brubeck's lyrics with gusto as the album comes to a close.
Doug Ramsey's enjoyable liner notes add an additional chapter to the shrouded life of Paul Desmond, though the author regrets not asking Brubeck or producer John Snyder about the existence of any unreleased Desmond sessions prior to completing his book. Fans of Paul Desmond owe a debt of gratitude to his still-anonymous girlfriend for finally sharing this unique recording with them.
Track Listing: My Funny Valentine; East of the Sun (and West of the Moon); Audrey; I
Personnel: Paul Desmond: vocals, alto sax, clarinet, tenor sax, soprano sax, piano; Dave Brubeck: piano; Doug Ramsey: liner notes; John Snyder: producer.
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