May 29, 2024

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Paul Desmond: We were sort of fairy-taleing it: Video

25.11. – Happy Birthday !!! Born in San Francisco. Grew up (reluctantly) in Berkeley, Brooklyn,New Rochell. Back to high school in SF (Polytechnic) where quickly became conspicuous acc’t  didn’t play football or fix cars. Took up clarinet so as to get into ROTC band. Wild deal.  Got you out of all kind of chores.

Then came war.  Went into 253 AGF band, organization notably befeft of any jazz type talent except for old David Van Kriedt.  He introduced me to Brubeck, who was passing thru forlornly on way overseas as rifleman (one of very few riflemen, whould add, to end up in Herman Goering’s bed, with his own band, a ballet co., and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes — all of which is of course another story:  when we met he was just rifleman).  First conversation quite brief:  “Wow, man, too much, like, nutty changes, dad, the end wig, you know?”  “White man speak with forked tongue.”

Out of army in 1946, married shortly after, starved quietly for several years.  Music major at SF State for six months till saw error of ways, switched to English.  Musical education since then mainly listening to records, looking over piano-players’ shoulders.  More fun that way.  Continued starving quietly thru 1950 (brief interlude working with Dave and Norm Bates in 1949 at small clue near Stanford = = = musically the end, with much promis(sic) of what we could maybe do someday if we could ever figure out where, but didn’t change starvation bit much.  $46.50 wk?  For the leader?)  Loving wife left quietly in 1949, happily divorced since then.

During momentary fit of depression in 1950 (It was July and only jobs so far had been two jazz concerts, one Mexican wedding) went on road with Jack Fina.  Came back in Nov., sat in with Dave whenever possible.  Got on steady following summer.  Since then things have been just fine.

Картинки по запросу Paul Desmond

photo Breitenfeld Family Collection

Paul Desmond


“Paul can now crawl very fast and yesterday crawled from the living through the dining room, kitchen and hall, but usually of course we don’t like him to be on the floor except on a blanket or in his coop…He doesn’t care much for the coop, and instead of playing in it he pulls himself up at the rail and complains bitterly against being left alone.”

– Desmond’s father Emil

photo Breitenfeld Family Collection

Desmond’s parents, Emil and Shirley Britenfeld, 1933


“By the time Paul was eight, his mother was so bad that, for some reason we never figured out, his father Emil, whom Paul adored, decided that he really had to be out of the house because Mom was too ill.  I was never told anything persuasive about why Emil called his three siblings in New York to say, ‘I have to send Paul to you while I get this woman treated.”

– Desmond’s cousin Rick Breitenfeld

photo Breitenfeld Family Collection

Desmond, age 12 or 13


“I am getting along swell in music.  I think I stand a slight chance of (being) put in a higher class.  I have the same books I had with you, Singing and Playing and The 1st Melody Book.  I got several extra pieces, also.  When you get 10 stars you get a prize, and I have about 14 of them, but the music teacher forgot to get the prize.”

– Desmond, in a letter to his father

photo Breitenfeld Family Collection

Desmond in the Polytechnic High School Band


” [When Desmond entered San Francisco’s Polytechnic High]…writing was still on his mind.  He would pursue it at Polytech, but he was surrounded by and fascinated with music.  His active musical existence was narrowly concentrated in piano and clarinet lessons, but the harmonic knowledge he had acquired by osmosis during his first eight years in Emil Breitenfeld’s house inhabited his mind and spirit.”

– Doug Ramsey

photo Breitenfeld Family Collection

“The two people who hugely influenced the way Paul ended up playing were Lester Young – -for his soft palette, so to speak — and Artie Shaw, for his lyricism.”

– Childhood friend Hal Strack


“Just You, Just Me”, by Lester Young

“My Blue Heaven”

, by Artie Shaw

photo Breitenfeld Family Collection

Desmond and wife Duane, 1946


“I don’t remember a big deal of getting engaged.  We were sort of fairy-taleing it.  He loved love stories.  He loved love, as such, and I think marriage fit whatever criteria, or most of the criteria, he had.  He gave me a ring.  It isn’t like I was pregnant.  I was still a virgin.  Yeah…He was my first.”

– Duane Lamon

photo Brubeck Institute

The Dave Brubeck Octet at the Blackhawk, San Francisco, 1950


“[Darius] Milhaud liked our music…He loved Kriedt’s ‘“Fugue on Bop Themes”‘  He said it was a wonderful example of a real fugue, written in a jazz style.  He was as strict as could be about counterpoint.  You had to follow his rules, which were Bach’s rules.”

– Dave Brubeck


“Love Walked In” , by the Dave Brubeck Octet

photo Francis Lynne and John Coppola Collection

Norman Bates, Desmond, Brubeck and Francis Lynne at the Band Box, 1949


“‘Paul considered himself a terrific driver,’” Brubeck once told me. ‘He had calculated that the traffic lights on a stretch of road down the peninsula to Palo Alto were timed for 45 miles an hour. Using perfect logic, he figured out that if you could make all the lights at 45, you could make them at 90 and leave later for the gig. Every time we drove down there, I thought there was a good chance I was going to die.”

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