Take Eighty-Five

Thumbnail image for Desmond TGing2.jpgIf 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.

Happy Thanksgiving
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  1. Diana says

    Thank you for posting this version of Koto Song. It not only has a long and lovely Desmond solo, but Brubeck played one of the most otherworldly and gorgeous improvisations he ever recorded. When this was first released as the last track on side two of the LP Summit Sessions, I wore it out. The inner tracks of LPs have the worst fidelity (less track per turntable revolution)and it sounded like it was recorded underwater! I was overjoyed to find it on a few CDs and especially to learn that it was filmed.
    In my mind’s ear I have difficulty imagining Desmond playing with Monk, but he might have been right at home with Bill Evans.

  2. Dave says

    I didn’t know that…LP’s wearing out faster, closer to the label. I have long thought that at least sometimes, the inner cuts of an LP didn’t sound as clean as the outer cuts. I’ve collected records for years, and now my suspicions have been proven!
    Since this is a thread about Mr. Desmond, I’d just like to say that everything I’ve heard him play on record is just absolutely perfect. I must have 30 Dave Brubeck albums by now, and Desmond is/was just so great, so absolutely great. What a talent.

  3. Svetlana says

    The whole week before the 85th birth date of Paul Desmond my pen-friends from the US and me were exchanging (one piece per day through e-mail)our most loved solos by him . It was a very touching experience. Koto song was also there as one of the most beautiful pieces performed by the DBQ.
    Not long ago at a jazz event I listened to a very good young alto saxophonist(27) from St.Petersbourg(Russia)and in the way he elicited sounds from his sax I heard something reminding of PD though the repertoire was quite different. When asked, the young man said that at the very start of his career he really had taken PD as a pattern.I was happy to hear this 32 years since he passed from a modern young musician.