Paul Desmond (alto) - "Two of a Mind" with Gerry Mulligan (bari)

by Len Yaeger
(Minneapolis, MN)

Paul Desmond is grossly underrated, probably due to his long association with the keyboard-pounding Dave Brubeck. Desmond's beautiful tone is inimitable, and his melodic and harmonic sense and creativity are unmatched, in my opinion. His use of harmonic extensions and melodic sequences, in particular, is astonishing.

Listen to Paul's nine-chorus solo in Mulligan's "Blight of the Fumblebee" on the "Two of a Mind" album and note the melodic structure. A highly trained composer could not sit down and write more coherent and well organized melody - and Desmond is improvising it! This may be the finest solo ever recorded on the 12-bar blues.

Like many great players, Desmond makes extensive use of the altissimo register, but unlike most, he incorporates these ultra-high notes seamlessly in his locigal, lyrical melodies. To Paul, these extreme notes are not novelty sounds, stuck in haphazardly for a special effect, but merely part of his normal, comfortable range.

I believe that Paul Desmond is one of the 20th century's greatest musicians - not just of jazz, but of any genre.

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