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Paul Desmond
DESMOND BLUE
(BLUEBIRD/RCA)

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How you feel about Desmond Blue will depend on how you feel about jazz soloists with strings. No matter how pure everyoneís intentions (and they rarely are), what you often end up with is a gloppy, oversweet concoction, the jazz soloistís naturally swinging, untempered ways inflated into sentimentality by those swelling, sighing choruses. No wonder Tommy Dorsey referred to his own string section as "the mice."

Bob Princeís arrangements for this 1962 album by Brubeck Quartet member Desmond arenít exactly Gunther Schuller, but Prince shows admirable restraint and even some good moves. The low, held notes of slight dissonance under the alto-saxophonist on the title cut are a nice touch, as are the countermelodies by French horn and woodwinds, and I donít think Desmondís keening solo flight on "I Should Care" would be as effective without the contrast of those trilling strings behind him. So I can forgive the occasional hackneyed harp glissando or other Hollywood moves.

Besides, the draw here is Desmond, the man who said he aspired to sound like a dry martini, unsentimental as ever but still a romantic, his pure, almost vibratoless tone and purer melodic flights, with their rhythmic dips and sways, paralleling the poetic verse of unstated lyrics. Heís matched here with guitarist Jim Hall, maybe the most-like minded of his famous partners (Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan being the others). Rhythm sections that include Milt Hinton, Connnie Kay, and Ossie Johnson keep things swinging, and the remastered George AvakianĖproduced sessions gleam with straight-up clarity.

BY JON GARELICK

Issue Date: March 28 - April 4, 2002
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