Illinois Jacquet's searing sax solo in 1942's "Flying Home" (recorded while Jacquet was a member of Lionel Hampton's band) is often credited as the first R&B-styled saxophone solo, and there is no denying the power in that performance, shards of which are still being copied and assimilated. But many critics of the day hated the "dirty tenor" sound, and over the years Jacquet softened his approach considerably, knocking off the wilder corners and playing a smoother, more standard line. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing, since Jacquet was an accomplished melodic player in any style, but listeners should be aware that his rougher sound was all but gone by the time Desert Winds was recorded in 1964. Working with guitarist Kenny Burrell, pianist Tommy Flanagan, and a rhythm section of Wendell Marshall on bass and Ray Lucas on drums, with Willie Rodriguez adding bongos and congas on most tracks, Jacquet's playing here is hushed, easy, and pleasant, with no discernible hard edges, and with no other horn player on the session, he has plenty of room to let his solos build and unwind. He does break out a little bit on the group's version of the Lester Young classic "Lester Leaps In," but most cuts, like the title track, have an unhurried, relaxing midtempo shuffle pace, making Desert Winds feel like the aural equivalent of a gentle twilight breeze. The added percussion gets a little distracting on occasion, but overall Jacquet is in fine lyrical form, particularly on the standout track here, a beautiful version of "You're My Thrill" that carries all the breathy romanticism of a classic Ben Webster solo, and is one of Jacquet's finest pieces. An underappreciated and unassuming album, Desert Winds has plenty of easy charm, and while there are no barn-burning solos here, there are plenty of moments of quiet and lyrical joy.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett