“The Paul Desmond Quartet Live”
First let me start off by saying that I am a huge Paul Desmond fan. His lyrical phrases and soft tone are without peer. An original who transcended the tastes of the time to become the taste. On this effort we find him paired with Ed Bickert on guitar, Don Thompson on bass, and Jerry Fuller on drums. The CD re-issue features an additional track titled “Line for Lyons” which was composed by occasional Desmond collaborator Gerry Mulligan.
The CD is somewhat of a disappointment. There’s too little Desmond. One of the bright spots is his cover of “My Funny Valentine” which finds him putting down tasty solos. Even on this tune though we can hear that the old master is not at the top of his game. His normal mastery of the top range of his alto is shaky at times. The notes do not come out with the same ease that they did a decade before. The phrases tend to be shorter. He gives a lot of room to his supporting cast graciously but one wonders if the mind was willing but the chops weren’t at this point.
Another bright moment is a totally reworked middle east influenced version of “Take Five”. Don Thompson puts down some very interesting bass lines and the band seems to come together in a way unlike most of the other moments on this release.
The most inspired playing on the whole CD is the bonus track “Line for Lyons”. Long lyrical lines, great groove, sense of swing, and cohesiveness that is overall lacking in the rest of the release. Stylistically it is the most straight ahead piece on the set and may be why it was kept off of the original release.
The last three tracks help redeem what is otherwise a disjointed and weak effort. Over all I would recommend this for the completest who must have every recording made by Desmond. If one wants to hear one of the most interesting interpretations of “Take Five” then this CD is probably for you. Otherwise, take in some of the other Desmond work like anything he did with Mulligan or his Jim Hall recordings.
2.5 stars out of 4
Available from Amazon: The Paul Desmond Quartet Live