Readers have sent messages saying that they looked forward to this year’s Rifftides observance of Paul’s birthday. It might be impossible to say all that there is to say about that remarkable man. I came as close as I could when I wrote his biography. At his memorial service, the playwright Jack Richardson said,
I found him the best company of anyone I’d ever known in my life. I found him the most loyal friend I’ve ever known in my life. I found him the most artistic person I’d ever known in my life. His leaving will make this planet a smaller, darker place for everyone.
Yes. Except that Paul continues to illuminate the planet and our lives with his music. Toward the end, he assembled a quartet with the superb Canadian rhythm section of guitarist Ed Bickert, bassist Don Thompson and drummer Jerry Fuller. Thompson, also a first-rate audio engineer, taped the group at the Edmonton Jazz Festival in April 1976, a year before Paul died. Our birthday party music is Don’s one-hour recording of the concert. The playlist is “Just Squeeze Me,” “Darn That Dream,” “Wave,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “Wendy,” and “Take Five”
The still photo that accompanies the YouTube video may be unstable, but the sound is excellent.
Devra Hall took the photo below when Paul and her parents Jim and Jane were her guests for dinner on Thanksgiving, 1976. When I see it, I think about the countless hours I spent with Paul, about Jack Richardson’s memorial speech and about what Dave Brubeck said more than once about his friend and musical soulmate of more than three decades:
“Boy, do I miss Paul Desmond.”