Since Paul Desmond's death in 1977, there have been only a handful of previously unissued recordings released under his name, though this previously unreleased concert from the Edmonton Festival in 1976 may possibly be his final recorded date as a leader. With the same Canadian trio that joined him for his sessions at Toronto's Bourbon Street in 1975 (guitarist Ed Bickert, bassist Don Thompson, and drummer Jerry Fuller), the alto saxophonist is in a typically swinging mood, with his dry tone and lyrical playing buoyed by the terrific rhythm section. Desmond is up to his usual tricks, inserting in sly quotes from time to time. Bickert and Thompson, both recommended to Desmond by Jim Hall (who worked with him on a number of his earlier albums), provide intuitive backdrops that support the leader while also contributing stunning solos themselves. Most of the songs had long been part of Desmond's repertoire, though Thompson's mystical, droning East Indian solo in "Take Five" (similar to the version that appears on the CD Paul Desmond Quartet Live) takes the leader's signature tune in a different direction. The source is evidently an aircheck of a radio broadcast, as occasional minor flutter is audible, though the sound is excellent. The booklet contains a review of the performance that was published the following day, along with a transcription of a radio interview broadcast right after the concert, though neither the writer nor broadcaster is identified. Desmond fans will laugh at the ridiculous Photoshop cover, with a photo of the saxophonist dating from the mid-'60s with a backdrop of the stage that includes the lighted banner Edmonton Festival '76; the giveaway is Desmond's hairline, which has not receded nearly as far back as the photo on the back cover.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden