The counterpoint that Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond generated in the early-to-mid 1950s leads many serious listeners to consider the period the creative height of their partnership. For all the success of their later work, including “Take Five,” after the late fifties counterpoint was a less frequent, less concentrated part of their work. There were exceptions, even after the Brubeck quartet disbanded in 1969. One came during a brief stage when the temporarily reconstituted quartet featured Gerry Mulligan as the saxophonist. Desmond sometimes appeared with them. Thanks to Rifftides reader John Bolger for calling our attention to a video that recently popped up on the web. The year of recording is in dispute, but the latest information indicates that it was made in Holland during a 1972 Newport Jazz Festival tour. The tune is “All The Things You Are,” a favorite in the repertoires of all three men. They frequently played it when Jack Six and Alan Dawson were the bassist and drummer with Brubeck, as they were that night.
During the course of Desmond’s solo, the intensity of swing increases chorus by chorus and continues during Mulligan’s and Brubeck’s solos. Then, there’s a chorus of counterpoint between Desmond and Brubeck, another between Mulligan and Brubeck and, finally, two choruses of the three constructing what comes very close to meeting the formal requirements of a fugue—exposition, subject, countersubject—the whole magilla. Six and Dawson beautifully support the operation. I should add that this is a prime demonstration by Brubeck of why Desmond prized him as an accompanist.
Extra added attraction: a clear look at The Suit, Desmond’s favorite apparel during his final years. This video is a find.
The YouTube contributor who posted the video attached a note promising that there would be more from the concert upon request. Let’s hope that he or she gets plenty of requests.