Now listeners enter the heart of the Paul Desmond/Jim Hall sessions, a great quartet date with Gene Cherico manning the bass (Gene Wright deputizes on the title track) and MJQ drummer Connie Kay displaying other sides of his personality. Everyone wanted Desmond to come up with a sequel to the monster hit "Take Five"; and so he did, reworking the tune and playfully designating the meter as 10/8. Hence "Take Ten," a worthy sequel with a solo that has a Middle-Eastern feeling akin to Desmond's famous extemporaneous excursion with Brubeck in "Le Souk" back in 1954. It was here that Desmond also unveiled a spin-off of the then-red-hot bossa nova groove that he called "bossa antigua" (a sardonic play-on-words meaning "old thing"), which laid the ground for Desmond's next album and a few more later in the decade. Two of the best examples are his own tunes, the samba-like "El Prince" (named after arranger Bob Prince), an infectious number with on-the-wing solo flights that you can't get out of your head, and the haunting "Embarcadero." Hall now gets plenty of room to stretch out, supported by Kay's gently dropped bombs, and he is the perfect understated swinging foil for the wistful altoist. There is not a single track here that isn't loaded with ingeniously worked out, always melodic ideas.
- Richard S. Ginell (All Music Guide)
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Because Paul Desmond invented himself, no one else had to.
Surely, in our bewildering and beautiful world, there had to be a Paul Desmond: And there was: a poet laureate of the alto saxophone; one of the few singular post-Parker styl-istics who stood apart from the high-flying, speed-burning Bird; a master melodicat who, forsaking complexity in favor of conciseness, sweet bon-bons in favor of bon mots, admitted (pridefully or perversely, or both) that he'd "won several prizes as the world's slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness."
That is not to say that his was a life of artifice. Paul Breitenfeld (1924-1977) may have taken his Desmond surname from a phone book and likened his ideal tone to a dry martini, but when he hit the bandstand he was all business. The feathered intensity of his music was never oxymoronic. Though best known for his long association with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, whose classicist tendencies, sophisticated harmonies and odd-meter counterpoint led some critics in the late 50s to question their swing (in retrospect, an unfounded charge), Desmond recorded a fair number of albums under his own name, including four scintillating quartet sessions for RCA Victor with a kindred spirit, guitarist Jim Hall.
Take Ten, arguably the most compelling of the lot; now returns to circulation in its own right, showcasing Desmond's spacious, slightly arid but substantive blowing on a program of originals, standards and bossa-novas from 1963. The leader, who penned the liner notes for the original album (having studied creative writing at San Francisco State College, he harbored certain literary aspirations, ultimately unrealized), credits the easy-flowing, swingful nature of the music to his easy-flowing, swingful sidekicks. He calls Hail "a beautiful musician - the favorite guitar- picker of many people who agree on little else in music, and he goes to his left very well." Seriously or jokingly, or both, Desmond points out that Gene Cherico, bassist on all the tracks save "Take Ten." was a drummer "but a tree fell on him." Of the date's actual drummer, the Modern Jazz Quartet's paragon of subtlety, Connie Kay, he quips, "If a tree ever falls on him, I may just shoot myself. He's like unique."
No cutting contest, this. With simpatico players like these, it's no wonder the sounds are, like Coolsville. (Could it be that a Valley Girl, 20 years ahead of her time, was at Desmond's side when he wrote his liner notes?) Anyway, the sounds on Take Ten are mellow yet meaningful, understated yet lucid. Chordally or with single-note lines. Hall's ripostes with Desmond are always elegantly conversational, even on a tricky piece like the title track, an exercise in 5/4 (replete with Middle Eastern tones from the leader's alto) composed a few years after Desmond's smash hit "Take Five" with Brubeck. Desmond & Co. also invest the album's four bossa antiguas -"Theme From 'Black Orpheus," "Samba de Orfeu," "Embarcadero" and "El Prince"-with new-found luster, in keeping with Desmond's lament that the bossa-nova had by then degenerated into a "hula-hoop promotion."
Alas, Paul Desmond is no longer around to receive belated kudos for the musical virtues he extolled - the supremacy of melody and a warm, sometimes ironic but seldom sentimental lyricism equalled perhaps only by Lester Young. Like the President. Desmond had his own special way of seeing, speaking and playing. As the Yuppie Decade of the 80s has come and gone. Desmond no doubt would have been pleased to know, as he once observed apropos another situation, perhaps "the world ends not with a whim but a banker."
- Gene Kalbacher