Recent listening, current

Saturday, July 6, 2013

112. Paul Desmond / Take Ten (1963)

If you can't get enough of "Take Five," then Take Ten is the album for you. It's one of several excellent slabs made during Desmond's many quartet sessions for RCA Victor. The band is Jim Hall on guitar, a moonlighting Connie Kay on drums and Gene Cherico on bass. Fellow Brubeckian Eugene Wright subs for Cherico on "Take Ten," adding an extra dimension of conceptual continuity to this 10/8 reworking of its famous counterpart. It starts with a familiar vamp that is reminiscent of a studio orchestra trying to avoid paying royalties for the genuine article. But then Desmond starts in on a deep and bluesy riff, finding new territory inside of an old melody. He blows these long and contemplative notes that explore the tonal color of the mode and remind me, in a very limited sense, of later work by Jackie McLean or John Gilmore. It's a treat, especially when he decides to hold on for just a bit longer and sustains the phrase with some vibrato. Proceedings quickly change the course toward Desmond's passion for bossa nova. In spite of an American burnout on the form, Desmond was one of its stalwart practitioners, and originals like "El Prince," "Embarcadero," or "Samba de Orfeu" are fine examples. Kay and Hall give the sessions that extra something it needs. Kay has a nice technique that intertwines his ever present cymbals with a driving attention to the skins. This band gives him elbow room that was impossible in the immaculately executed pieces by MJQ. A normally taciturn Hall takes some interesting breaks mixing chords with short flurries of single notes and a lot of fun riffing, and he is one of my favorite musicians. Together they make a melodically focused disc with good performances and an excited but cool, relaxed vibe that I wholeheartedly recommend. It ends as sweetly as it began, with an uptempo "Out of Nowhere" featuring George Duvivier on bass. The section at the end where Desmond has the floor to himself with punctuation marks by Kay is just magic.    

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