“Boy, Do I Miss Paul Desmond”

Thirty-two years ago today, Paul Desmond bid his girl friend goodbye as she set off for London, urging her to have a good holiday. That was on Friday. He would be fine, he told her; he had friends coming the next day. But his only companion that weekend was the lung cancer that had ravaged him during the past year. His housekeeper found him dead on Monday, Memorial Day.
Marian McPartland said, “It’s just like Paul to slip quietly away when everyone’s out of town, not to bother anybody.” Dave Brubeck still says, “Boy, do I miss Paul Desmond.” Details of Paul’s passing–and his life–are in Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.
Here he is at the 1975 Monterey Jazz Festival two years before his death.

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  1. jenna says

    and all those 5 stars are looking down at you and smiling. Bless you (and Paul). xx

  2. Jon Foley says

    I, and many others, concur with Dave Brubeck’s sentiment, even though I never knew Paul (although, thanks to your book, I feel like I did). He had one of the relatively few instantly identifiable sounds in all of jazz. I’m grateful that I’m old enough to have seen him a few times in person.
    Time to dig out that Mosaic box set again.

  3. Denis Ouellet says

    Is it that long ago already ?
    Lucky enough to have seen him once in concert.
    Of course there is ample music with Dave Brubeck. And that’s fine.
    But what made an indelible impression on me one day was when the music
    teacher played that record “Two Of A Mind” with Gerry Mulligan.
    I had to get that record

  4. says

    Yes, I miss him too but he lives in his music which I listen to everyday.
    (If Rifftides readers go to Titus Chen’s YouTube site, they will find abundant evidence that, indeed, he listens to Desmond. Click on the name Titus in the upper left corner of his comment. — DR)

  5. Michael C. Baughan,O.D. says

    “Dry Martini Music (& Bird!) Lives!” thanks to your book & Desmond’s recordings….including the recent add tracks on “Time Out 50th Anniv Legacy Edition CDs”.

  6. says

    Being biased (what daughter isn’t?), some of my favorite Desmond tracks include Jim Hall. Recently I posted on YouTube their rendition of “O Gato” (written by my mother) — the clip begins with a vocal demo version, then has the full track from my favorite album, Bossa Antigua.

  7. Noel Silverman says

    He really does live on in his music.
    He affected more lives than he knew, I think. And still does.
    The Emily track that you’ve included in Rifftides is lovely.
    (Mr. Silverman was Paul Desmond’s attorney and is the executor of his estate — DR)

  8. Jim Brown says

    My God that is beautiful! Much wonderful music has been made with this Johnny Mandel/Johnny Mercer masterpiece, and this one is as good as it gets.

  9. Peter Bergmann says

    It was a sad day in may 1977 when I learned that Paul was gone.
    Lucky we are that we can listen to his music which is one of the most precious companions in life. I frequently return to his solo “Softly William Softly” on the Brubeck Quartet’s album “Time In” – it’s a gem, a rare beauty.
    Thanks for your marvellous book about Paul, Doug.
    Peter, Berlin

  10. Svetlana Ilicheva says

    I knew Paul Desmond only from Youtube but admired his magnificent gift of an improviser. Nobody sounds like him! On my request, American Cultural Center in Moscow acquired your book highly recommended to me by a friend from the US.I am enthralled with it. Thanks to your magnificent gift for narration I feel as if I knew Paul and his environment personally. While reading the story of his life I laughed, got angry (with Paul!), got upset and was happy and felt like I was a part of the events described. And your finishing phrase, “The cat was gone, but when I closed my eyes I saw the grin,” is just the stroke of genius to my mind… Thank you!