Monday, August 6, 2012

Paul Desmond - Summertime (1969)

Paul Desmond is a name even the casual jazz fan should be familiar with, but that may not be the case. His composition "Take Five" is probably more famous than the man that wrote it to the general public. His tenure with the Brubeck quartet enabled his sound to be familiar, but until he embarked on a solo career his name was always secondary to Brubeck's which is really quite unfortunate. Consequently, Summertime was recorded a little over a year after the Brubeck quartet broke up, officially taking Desmond out of "retirement." Summertime is a bossa nova album that fits Desmond's sound so well whether the tune is a ballad or an uptempo samba. Desmond is really one of the few altoists in the mid-20th century that was able to create a sound independent of Charlie Parker. The opening track "Samba with Some Barbecue" is a personal favorite and is a bossa nova treatment of the Louis Armstrong chart "Struttin' with Some Barbecue." Even though "Autumn Leaves" seems to be played by every jazz artist on the planet, Desmond's version is definitely worth giving a listen. "Autumn Leaves" and much of the album owes a lot to arranger Don Sebesky, who after his stints with figures like Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson in the 1950s turned to conducting and arranging in the 1960s. In my opinion, you can hear a lot of influence of Gil Evans in the way Sebesky arranges, but also in the album as a whole. The lush brass augmented by the presence of French horns and the way he writes around the solo voice reminds me of Gil Evans' work with Miles Davis. Through this collaboration tracks like "Autumn Leaves" and "Summertime" seem fresh, original, and practically like they were always supposed to be bossa nova charts.

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