We’re heading into Memorial Day weekend, the thirtieth anniversary of Paul Desmond’s death.
Musically, what I remember about Paul is how hard he could swing in that really understated way. He had the most amazing time feel in his playing. People never really talked about that part of his playing. He could really swing. There’s a lot to Paul Desmond besides that beautiful sound and those beautiful melodies. He was a really strong cat.
I more or less said that found him the best company of anyone I’d ever known in my life. I found him the most loyal friend I’ve ever had in my life. I found him the most artistic person I’ve ever known in my life. I said that his leaving will make this planet a smaller and darker place for everyone.
–Jack Richardson recalling his speech at Desmond’s memorial service.
Both quoted in Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond
Last year around this time, I was also in the grips of nostalgia and sentimentality.
Perhaps it is appropriate to share a couple anecdotes from Gene Lees’ interview of Dave and Iola Brubeck, featured in the book “Cats Of Any Color.”
Dave recalls this from Paul’s last days:
“Do you know the story about Mingus going to see him? We’d known Charlie since the early days in San Francisco, and he and Paul were good friends. Paul had to leave his apartment unlocked, because he was too weak to answer it. Charlie let himself in while Paul was asleep and stood by the bed. Paul woke up and saw him standing there in a black cape and black hat, and Paul said for a moment, he thought it was the angel of death.”
Iola, on a lighter note, chimed in:
“I have a new Desmond story, at least new to me. Paul saw a picture in a newspaper showing Aristotle Onassis in front of the Hollywood home of Buster Keaton, looking at it with an eye on buying it. Paul’s comment was ‘Hmm. Aristotle contemplating the home of Buster.'”
After a pause, Iola said, “We all miss him, don’t we.”