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Blues in Time

NotNow NOT2CD 462



CD1: First Place Again
1 I Get a Kick Out of You
2 For All We Know
3 Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West
4 Greensleeves
5 You Go to My Head
6 East of the Sun
7 Time After Time
Paul Desmond - Alto sax
Jim Hall - Electric guitar
Percy Heath - Bass
Connie Kay - Drums
CD2: Blues in Time
1. Blues in Time
2. Body and Soul
3. Standstill
4. Line for Lyons
5. Wintersong
6. Battle Hymn of the Republican
7. Fall Out
Paul Desmond - Alto sax
Gerry Mulligan - Baritone sax
Joe Benjamin - Bass
Dave Bailey - Drums


This double album contains two LPs recorded respectively in 1959 and 1957. Paul Desmond's alto sax sound was the epitome of cool, and the first of these two albums alllowed him to set a cooler agenda than when he played in the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He joined forces with another cool player - guitarist Jim Hall, who was generally an introverted player, so that the first album is full of understated music which is lyrical rather than extrovert.

The bass and drums were supplied by Percy Heath and Connie Kay, famous for their work with the Modern Jazz Quartet, another restrained group. Actually Percy Heath keeps several tracks swinging but the primary effect is airy and spacious. Jim Hall plays some thoughtful solos but he also backs up Desmond with well-chosen chords. I think the title "First Place Again" refers to Desmond winning the Downbeat poll, although the original cover mentions Playboy, so perhaps it was that magazine's jazz poll. Another version of the album includes an extra track - Paul Desmond's composition Susie, which is absent from this reissue.

The second CD is perhaps more interesting than the other album, as it puts Paul Desmond beside Gerry Mulligan. The contrast between the alto and baritone saxes is piquant, and the line-up may remind the listener of Gerry Mulligan's famous pianoless quartets (especially in Mulligan's Line for Lyons). There seems to be more interplay between Desmond and Mulligan than there was with Desmond and Hall. For example, the title-track includes Desmond and Mulligan swapping eight-bar improvisations.

Mulligan appears to stimulate Desmond. In Body and Soul, they play together tentatively, leaving each other space, and Mulligan shadows Desmond's solo, providing some contrapuntal lines which are sympathetic to what Paul is playing. Counterpoint is also a highlight of Battle Hymn of the Republican. They are obviously listening closely to one another, which makes us listen attentively to what they are playing.

Tony Augarde

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