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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Jack Ashby

Budget price

Paul Desmond

Cool Imagination

bluebird 09026 63995 2



1. Imagination
2. A Ship Without a Sail
3. Desmond Blue
4. Glad To Be Unhappy
5. That Old Feeling
6. Out of Nowhere
7. Samba Cantina
8. Here's That Rainy Day
9. Alone Together
10. Bewitched
11. Autumn Leaves
12. My Funny Valentine
13. Samba de Orfeu

Jazz musicians tend to divide themselves into two groups, the rhythmic players and the melodic players. Some of course have strong elements of both in their playing. On this scale Paul Desmond is at the extreme end of the melodic sector. His ability to weave intricate melodic patterns on any chord sequence is little short of pure magic. His tone was completely different to those who had gone before him and Charlie Parker probably less influenced him, than any other top saxophone player of the 50's and 60's. This did not please all the critics of the time, but when you listen to these tracks today, you realise that he was a unique influence in jazz. It was of course his work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet that brought him to the attention of the public. He and Dave were made for each other in a musical sense. Brubeck was the classically trained rhythm player always seeking new directions and Desmond the romantic melodic player whose background was from a degree in creative writing. The one's ability (Brubeck) stemming from hard toil and practice and the other a musical genius who instinctively did the right thing. Although he spent 11 years under contract to Brubeck as a member of his highly successful Quartet, he always retained his right to make records as a leader using his own name.

This 'bluebird's best' album has him in a number of different settings, with strings on tracks 1,3,11 and 12 and with one of his regular collaborators on record, guitarist Jim Hall. Probably because of his commitments to Brubeck, Desmond never played in public with Jim Hall, but it was a musical marriage made in heaven. Hall's guitar playing is also very melodic and his chord work sparse as Desmond weaves his delicate improvisations over the melody. There is also a very nice version of Out of Nowhere recorded with another very melodic saxophone player Gerry Mulligan, on which their two horns weave around the melody together to produce excellent counterpoint. The absence of piano on this track seems to cause no problem for either soloist and it gives the music a very 'clean' feel. They did have the benefit of Joe Benjamin on bass.
and Mel Lewis on drums, so they were in very good hands. This track comes from an album called 'Two of a Mind' which I have noted for future acquisition!

Samba Cantina shows Desmond just as happy in the Latin Idiom, Jim Hall is on guitar on this one, with Eugene Wright (a long time Brubeck sideman) on bass and Connie Kay from the Modern Jazz Quartet on drums.

This record gives a very good selection of the work of the late Paul Desmond; he died 1977 aged 52 and jazz lost a unique voice. I recommend it without reserve it should be in every jazz fan's collection.

Don Mather


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