As the Paul Desmond/Jim Hall Quartet's recording activities gradually came to a halt by 1965, RCA Victor assembled the remains of a number of their later sessions into one last album, adding two outtakes, "All Through the Night" and "Rude Old Man," when the album was transferred to CD in 1990. These are, however, anything but leftovers; indeed, they constitute the best Desmond/Hall album since Take Ten, more varied in texture and mood and by and large, more inspired in solo content than Bossa Antigua and Glad to Be Unhappy. As a near-ideal example of this collaboration at its intuitive peak, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" opens with Hall paraphrasing the tune, and Desmond comes in on the bridge with a perfectly timed rejoinder that sounds as if he's asking a question. "Here's That Rainy Day" is another apt match of a standard to Desmond's sophisticated personality, he is at his dry, jaunty best on the up-tempo "That Old Feeling," and both have a ball jamming on the blues in Desmond's wry, quick "Blues for Fun." Nothing wrong with the outtakes, either; both are gems, although you will hear one - just one! - of Desmond's extremely rare smudged notes on his last entrance of "All Through the Night." Besides mainstays Hall and Connie Kay, three bass players - Gene Cherico, Gene Wright, and Percy Heath, all no stranger to Desmond sessions - alternate on these tracks.
- Richard S. Ginell (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
"Easy Living" is what you think somebody else has because he's loaded with money and has a nice pad and stereo speakers and a complete set of Paul Desmond albums and good booze in the pantry and a beautiful girl who's madly in love with him and tissues handy in case he sneezes.
Except he owes the bank; the rent is murder for penthouses; the guy who installed the stereo has to come up once a month to adjust something; everybody's always "borrowing" his Desmond records; hangovers get him down; the girl doesn't look so-great without eye shadow and lately keeps saying she's got to spend the weekend with her mother in the country and he always sneezes faster than he can reach for the tissue box. In fact, he knows that easy living is what you've got because you're listening to a Desmond album right now. So easy living is - a frame of mind.
The good life and the cool, sinuous sound of Paul Desmond's alto saxophone are a matchless pair. Elegance and refinement can make living that much easier to take. They are an ever-present part of the Desmond expression. Some musicians may convey musical emotion with rawness, even violence. Paul is no less intense, but when he exults there's a touch of gentlemanly polish and restraint. When he's down you really know it, but he doesn't drown his sorrows in beer - not even the best imported. No, it's the finest Napoleon brandy, savored and sipped from a liter-sized crystal snifter.
Most of the songs in its collection have a torchy touch. A bit of sentiment; a hint of sadness (bittersweet, but sweet) leaven the richness and beauty which mark the Desmond sound. Easy living becomes that old feeling when Joanna loved you - or was it Audrey ? No matter; the feeling is there. The sadness of that inevitable, predicted rainy day or the bewilderment that goes with bewitchment - these are part of the same sensation of nostalgia with a twinge that time has not quite healed. It may have seemed unbearable then, but now it's easier to take.
The memories of good things float comfortably on the velvety lushness of Paul's saxophone. The soft-focus recollection of Polka Dots and Moonbeams is obviously longer ago than the remembrance of one's beloved soon after parting, but the sentiment is the same. The device of a key change for every chorus of I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face parallels step-by-step mental searching that one goes through in trying to recall the image of one he loves.
A jaunty outlook goes with the easy life. The musicians, in the course of making these recordings, had themselves a ball with a bouncy up-tempo blues. Blues for Fun, Paul calls it. That it is - a happy counterpoint to the reflective moodiness of most of the other selections in this album.
Jim Hall, the nonpareil of the guitar, and the equally tasteful Connie Kay on drums are perfection as the mainstays of Paul Desmond Quartet. Aided on different occasions by bassists Gene Wright (of the Dave Brubeck Quartet), Gene Cherico (who was with Stan Getz at the time of this recording session) and Percy Heath (Connie's colleague in the Modern Jazz Quartet), they are as one with Paul's conceptions and with each other.
Particularly in the interplay between Jim and Paul, there is a qualify of mutual enhancement which is rare, even in so interactional a music as jazz. Jim Hall someone once said, caresses a guitar like it'll caress back. The solo voices of the Quartet enjoy this kind of musical sensivity to each other. It's all part of why the living is easy around Paul Desmond and Jim Hall, no matter what musical mood it might be.
- George Avakian. (1966)