Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

524

Paul Desmond-isms

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond worked with pianist Dave Brubeck for 18 years. He's best known for his composition "Take Five," which helped make Brubeck's record Time Out a mega-hit. Desmond's saxophone playing was always marked by an unusual fluidity and warmth. Through a number of solo records, he expanded on a relaxed but sophisticated sound.

Who would have guessed that Paul Desmond had a wickedly acerbic wit, ironic and self-deprecating at the same time?

"I have won several prizes as the world's slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness."

"I was unfashionable before anyone knew who I was."

"I tried practicing for a few weeks and ended up playing too fast."

"I think I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to sound like a dry martini."

On the secret of his tone: "I honestly don't know! It has something to do with the fact that I play illegally."

When asked by Gene Lees what accounted for the melancholy in his playing he replied, "Wellllll, that I'm not playing better."

He was an English major in college. His reason for not pursuing a literary career, "I could only write at the beach, and I kept getting sand in my typewriter."

"Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can't be taught."

Of writer Jack Kerouac he said, "I hate the way he writes. I kind of love the way he lives, though."

Of Vogue fashion models, he said, "Sometimes they go around with guys who are scuffling —for a while. But usually they end up marrying some cat with a factory. This is the way the world ends, not with a whim but a banker."

"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.'"

His response to the annoying banality of an interviewer, "You're beginning to sound like a cross between David Frost and David Susskind, and that is a cross I cannot bear."

Shortly before the Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded, "We're working as if it were going out of style —which of course it is."

Of yogurt he said, "I don't like it, but Dave is always trying things like that. He's a nutritional masochist. He'll eat anything as long as he figures it's good for him."

Of contact lenses: "Not for me. If I want to tune everybody out, I just take off my glasses and enjoy the haze"

On Ornette Coleman's playing, "It's like living in a house where everything's painted red."

Doug Ramsey wrote that Desmond on seeing Barbara Jones' oil painting of four cats stalking a mouse said, "Ah, the perfect album cover for when I record with the Modern Jazz Quartet." Ramsey pointed out that the mouse was mechanical and Desmond responded, "In that case, Cannonball will have to make the record."

Desmond's fondness for scotch was well known. So in early 1976 when a physical examination showed lung cancer, he was ironically pleased that his liver was fine. "Pristine, perfect. One of the great livers of our time. Awash in Dewars and full of health."

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Just For Fun
Love Jazz, Hate Jazz
By Michael Ricci
November 29, 2018
Just For Fun
Hey, George Frazier--I’m 10 Years Old Over Here
By Brian Dunn
September 27, 2015
Just For Fun
Top Five Funniest People in Jazz
By Michael Ricci
November 27, 2014
Just For Fun
Hot Rod Jazz God, Part 2: An Open Letter to Rod Stewart
By Jason West
May 28, 2013
Just For Fun
Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: Jazz Aphorisms
By Chris May
December 23, 2011
Just For Fun
Rod Stewart: Hot Rod, Jazz God
By Jason West
January 29, 2005
Just For Fun
BugHouse: Pages 1-5
By AAJ Staff
January 20, 2005