If Paul Desmond had lived, he would be 85 years old today. The last birthday he celebrated fell on Thanksgiving, 1976. For the occasion, Devra Hall cooked a turkey dinner for Desmond and her parents, Jim and Jane. She took the photograph that afternoon. Here’s the story of the end of that part of the day, told by Devra in Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.
“It was a very quiet dinner. Paul was not feeling well, but he was clearly happy not to be home alone. He didn’t have to say a word around my folks. They talked a blue streak, usually, but he was just very comfortable. My fondest recollection is that I made him dinner on his last birthday.”
The senior Halls and Desmond went back to Jim and Jane’s apartment when they left Devra’s, and on the way stopped at the Village Vanguard. Thelonious Monk was performing there. Between sets, they all gathered in the Vanguard’s kitchen, the closest thing the club has to a Green Room. In the book, Jim tells about it.
It was the most coherent conversation I ever had with Thelonious, in the kitchen with Paul and me and Thelonious. I had a sort of nodding acquaintance with Monk, but he and Paul really connected. I’m not even sure what they talked about, just standing around in that kitchen, going through old memories and things. It was nice
It would have been intriguing if he’d sat in with Monk. I always thought I’d like to hear them play the blues together. I’ll settle, gladly, for a blues with his constant companions of the l960s.