Paul Desmond

Glad to Be Unhappy/Two of a Mind

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The first of these two quartet sessions pairs alto saxophonist Paul Desmond with Gerry Mulligan's baritone saxophone for a variation on the sound of Mulligan's piano-less quartets. The second has Desmond sharing the spotlight with guitarist Jim Hall.

The 1962 set with Mulligan is a feast of cool, contrapuntal improvisation, with Desmond and Mulligan intersecting, converging, diverging, and complementing one another with dizzyingly dovetailing extemporizations. The individual performances are superb, but their success is more critically a result of the intensity with which the saxophonists listen to each other. Naturally, the rhythm section is crucial. Two of a Mind's six tracks present three different bass drum pairings, all skillfully keeping the two leads aloft with a cohesive, sophisticated pulse.

Glad to Be Unhappy from 1965 ranks as one of the finest sessions that Hall and Desmond made together. The set is dominated by torch songs, but the mood is not particularly torchy; rather, the familiar material serves as a jumping off point for subtle, transcendent solo work. Hall, in particular, constantly amazes with his rhythm work and chord solos. A master in the patient use of space, the guitarist's economy of expression, flawless articulation, and tone are all sources of wonder. Highlights include the reinvention of the potentially saccharine "A Taste of Honey" and "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo." "Angel Eyes" also gets a refreshing revision, as Desmond and Hall spike the standard's usual melancholy with an effective dash of hard-bitten stoicism.

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