Paul Desmond

Paul Desmond is well-known for his ability to create melodic improvisations and being a benchmark in cool jazz sax playing. He admitted to trying to sound like a dry martini with his warm and elegant tone. Art Pepper and Desmond were the only alto players in their generation to not have been directly influenced or influenced by Charlie Parker. Desmond was influenced a lot by Lester Young but he took that inspiration further and explored melodic and harmonic realms not previously accessible by reedmen, especially in the higher registers. Desmond is most well-known for his time with the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959-1967), and his well-known composition, “Take Five.” In the late ’40s, he met Brubeck and began playing with his Octet. The Quartet was formed towards the end 1950, and it took shape with Joe Morello and Eugene Wright a few years later. Jazz Impressions of Japan and Jazz at Oberlin were essential recordings for college students of that era. Desmond’s slow, controlled, and well-structured solos were a stark contrast to the pianist, who was obsessed with large chords. This created a multitude of rhythmic and melodic counterpoints that were unlike anything heard in jazz. Desmond’s witty quotes from musicals, classical music, and folk songs are also a hallmark of his talent. Desmond started a long and satisfying recording career after the Quartet split in 1967. This included sessions with Jim Hall and dates with Gerry Mulligan, as well as a concert with Modern Jazz Quartet. Before he died from lung cancer, he played his final gigs with the Brubeck Quartet. Desmond’s recordings have been box-setted and Mosaic released one of his complete sessions with Hall. Reissues are also available from A

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