Paul Desmond, Original

There weren’t many alto players back in the late forties and early fifties who didn’t attempt to sound like the great Charlie Parker—his influence, on all jazz instruments in fact, was so pervasive that few could escape his gravitational pull. One notable exception was alto man Paul Desmond, who eschewed Bird’s hard-biting virtuosic style for a lighter, more relaxed approach, marked by a highly lyrical melodicism. Yet even Bird himself, and many of the Bird-influenced players of the time, such as Cannonball Adderley, admired Desmond’s playing—Adderley called Desmond “a profoundly beautiful player.” So this episode is the story of a jazzman who went his own way and left a legacy of some of the most beautiful solos in jazz history.


“Somebody Loves Me” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Koko” Charlie Parker
“Out of Nowhere” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“In Your Own Sweet Way” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Blue Rondo a la Turk” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Tangerine” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Indian Summer” Lee Konitz
“You Stepped Out of a Dream” Stan Getz
“Moonlight in Vermont” Pete Brown
“Countless Blues” Lester Young
“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” Johnny Hodges with Duke Ellington
“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Here Lies Love” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“This Foolish Things” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Stardust” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“How High the Moon” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“All the Things You Are” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Koto Song” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck

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Published March 4th, 2019 by Bob Hecht

4 thoughts on “Paul Desmond, Original”

  1. This is a very interesting and thoughtful analysis analysis of Paul Desmond music. It makes very good points. As an illustration, the idea that despite playing few notes per time (the slowest alto
    as he described himself), his mind is extremely fast, a point hilighted by Braxton.
    Also, I found very interesting the analysis of his likely influences (Konitz, Getz, Young, Brown). Thanks for this relevant piece.

  2. The first Dave Brubeck Quartet record I could afford (I think it was 1958 and still have it) was a 45rpm EP from Jazz at Oberlin with Perdido and These Foolish Things. Paul Desmond’s solo on Perdido is amazing. Many years later, I wondered how it would sound played at 33 and 1/3. Still amazing and sounding quite a bit like Lester Young. I just ordered the 7 CD set and can’t wait for it to arrive.

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