When the Dave Brubeck Quartet broke up in 1967, Paul Desmond worked sporadically playing live dates, probably in part due to his substantial royalty income from his hit composition "Take Five." When Jim Hall was unavailable to play with Desmond in Canada, he recommended guitarist Ed Bickert who, like Hall, is a brilliant accompanist with the kind of musical E.S.P. that Desmond had with Brubeck. Bassist Don Thompson (who is also a fine pianist and vibraphonist) and drummer Jerry Fuller round out this solid quartet, which worked off and with Desmond when he played in Canada during the remainder of his life. These sessions, drawn from several nights at Bourbon Street in Toronto during the fall of 1975, are intimate performances enjoyed by attentive audiences. The selections include songs that Desmond had recorded with Brubeck or Gerry Mulligan, along with tunes he had played on his own records. Desmond's cool tone and witty quotes are a treat throughout the album. The toe-tapping blues "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" showcases Bickert's lyrical playing, along the subtly swinging work of Thompson. Desmond playful interpretation of "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" is typical of his recorded work. The most surprising track is the unusual setting of "Take Five," which takes an exotic route near the beginning of the leader's solo, with a droning vamp underneath him. First released as a two-LP set by Horizon/A&M in 1976, the album wasn't in print long due to the demise of Horizon, though frustrated collectors welcomed the 2000 Verve CD edition, which not only fit all of the music onto a single disc, but added a previously unissued take of Gerry Mulligan's "Line for Lyons" along with the original liner notes by Desmond and his good friend, journalist Doug Ramsey, plus extensive updated notes by Carl Woideck. This is easily the cream of the crop of Paul Desmond's post-Brubeck recordings as a leader and rivals the studio albums he recorded with Jim Hall; it is unfortunate that Desmond was diagnosed with lung cancer around the time this recording was first issued in 1976, which cut short a brilliant career far too soon.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden