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Paul Desmond, 1924 – 1977

 

Paul Desmond was composer and soloist on “Take Five” with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, one of the most popular tunes in jazz history.  Desmond’s light, airy sound was a mainstay of this hugely popular group for decades.  The essence of “cool,” he was indebted to Lester Young and Lee Konitz.  His stated goal was to make his alto sax sound like “a dry martini.” 

 

A stalwart of the 1960’s mini-craze the Boss Nova, Desmond recorded with Jim Hall, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and Ed Bickert among many others.  His own L.P. with Hall, TAKE TEN, is a classic of the genre.

 

His autobiography-in-progress, "How Many of You Are There in the Quartet?", did not reach completion before his death in 1977.  His lifestyle was conspicuously unhealthy, with cigarettes and liquor being staple items in his daily regimen. He died of lung cancer at 53.

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Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.