Paul Desmond: Whimsy At Monterey


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How many times did the Dave Brubeck Quartet perform “Take Five?” Hundreds? Maybe thousands. No one other than Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello would know for certain, and it’s unlikely that any of them kept a scorecard. “Take Five” is the annuity that keeps on giving to the American Red Cross, Desmond’s legatee. Noel Silverman, the executor of Desmond’s estate, informed me this morning that royalties, mostly from “Take Five,” have given the Red Cross upwards of 7 million dollars since Desmond’s death in 1977.

In listening to the quartet in person and on record and in doing research for my Desmond biography, I have heard dozens of their performances of his most enduring composition. Still, I had never heard a Desmond “Take Five” solo as unpredictable as the one he played at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1966. Not wanting to be a repeater pencil—to borrow Lester Young’s phrase—Paul varied his “Take Five” solos to prevent boredom, to entertain himself, the band and the audience, or to get a laugh out of Brubeck. For thirty years or so, surprising Brubeck gave Desmond enormous satisfaction. In this audio clip from the MFJ website, we can’t see Dave’s reaction, but it’s easy to imagine it.

For an illustrated collection of information about Brubeck’s and the quartet’s long history with the Monterey festival, see the MJF website.

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