After three years of keeping his alto saxophone in the closet, in 1974 Paul Desmond finally succumbed to the exhortations of the Canterino family and agreed for the first time in a quarter of a century to play a club date as leader. The Canterino’s club, the Half Note, had moved from lower Manhattan to Midtown. The new proximity was an important factor. “After all,” he told me, “It’s only a couple of blocks away. I can fall out of bed and onto the bandstand.” He hired Jim Hall on guitar, Ron Carter on bass and drummer Ben Riley. For two weeks, they played opposite the Bill Evans Trio.
Desmond enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do more quartet playing. He had been thinking about going to Canada. Hall told him about a Toronto guitarist named Ed Bickert and a club called Bourbon Street. Following negotiations, he went into the club with Bickert, bassist Don Thompson and drummer Terry Clarke, later replaced by Jerry Fuller. It was the group that became his beloved Canadian Quartet, and he played with them the rest of his life.
The young woman speaking with Desmond in the January, 1976, video below is the skilled interviewer Mary Lou Finlay, then the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Take 30. In the full program, the actor and jazz enthusiast Paul Soles fills Finlay in on Desmond’s career and on jazz, about which she confesses to know nothing. Then, in a pre-recorded studio video, the Canadian quartet plays “Wendy,” followed by Finlay chatting with Paul live. It is a pity that YouTube doesn’t offer the full segment, but at least we have a rare instance of Desmond speaking on television. The clip picks up after Finlay has asked him why the Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded in 1967.
Desmond recorded this album with the Canadian Quartet at Bourbon Street. Chapters 32-34 of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond cover the Canadian period and the final 16 months of Desmond’s life. He died on Memorial Day,1977.