Paul Desmond died 39 years ago today. Ten previous Rifftides observances of the anniversary have included passages from my biography of Paul and Desmond stories from an assortment of people who knew him. If you’ve a mind to, you can find all of our posts about Desmond by entering his name in the search box at the top right of the page, then clicking.
Above, Paul is wearing the smile unlikely to be forgotten by anyone who saw it. He is also wearing what came to be known as The Suit, a Glen plaid garment from which he was all but inseparable during his last years. He is pictured with violinist Svend Asmussen at the 1976 Monterey Jazz Festival. His feature at Monterey that year was Johnny Mandel’s “Emily,” a song he had grown to love. He gave five minutes of the lyricism, virtuosity, blues inflections and subtle humor that made him one of the best-known jazz artists of his time. Pianist John Lewis and guitarist Mundell Lowe are among his accompanists.
Less than a year later, at age 51, Paul Desmond was gone.