Correspondence: On Desmond

Responding to the Brubeck-Desmond item in the previous exhibit, David Evans writes:

Thanks for sharing that! Desmond always kills me.

It takes tremendous strength and control to play with such a beautiful sound and such balanced phrasing. It sounds easy, but believe me, it’s not. Classical dancers make it look easy, too, like they are effortlessly floating around, but it takes great strength and toughness to create that illusion.

And Desmond’s solo construction is always so compelling. The development of a motive engages the listener–we recognize a phrase as it emerges again in a new tonality farther down the line–it brings us along, in a friendly way, through the song form. There’s the creation of an expectation, the asking of a question, then there’s the satisfaction of an answer…or a little twist, and it’s satisfaction with a surprise…
Most of all, I love it when he addresses two or more contours simultaneously–a melodic line and its counterpoint–it takes some sleight of hand on a monophonic instrument, but there it is. There’s a lovely melodic utterance–it lingers shining in the air while he resolves some inner voices for a moment–then he’s back to the melodic voice and it feels like he never left it. I would love to hear Desmond playing unaccompanied, that compositional skill on clear display as he spins an entire orchestration singlehandedly.

To me, Jim Hall is the other towering, beautiful contrapuntalist–certainly that’s why I love the Desmond/Hall RCA box set so much.

Thanks for this post!

Mr. Evans teaches tenor saxophone at Lewis And Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and plays it with Dave Frishberg, Chuck Israels, Retta Christie and Phil Baker, among others. Here he is a couple of years ago with Mr. Baker in a guest shot on Lynn Darroch’s program Bright Moments on KMHD-FM.

Radio with pictures. Does that make it television?
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