SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“Desmond Blue” – Paul Desmond with Strings – RCA Victor/Pure Pleasure (vinyl)

Desmond fans with turntables will have to have this one.

Published on August 19, 2013

“Desmond Blue” – Paul Desmond with Strings – RCA Victor/Pure Pleasure (vinyl)

“Desmond Blue” – Paul Desmond with Strings [TrackList follows] – RCA Victor/ Pure Pleasure audiophile vinyl PPAN LSP-2438 *****:

(Personnel includes: Paul Desmond (alto saxophone); Bob Prince (arranger, conductor); George Marge, Robert Doly, Paul Winter, Stan Webb, Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque (winds); Albert Richman, Tony Miranda (French horn); Charles Libove, Arnold Eidus, Anahid Ajemian, Harry Glickman (violin); Harry Zaratzian, Alfred Brown (viola); Alan Shulman, Harvey Shapiro (cello); Gene Bianco, Gloria Agostni (harp); Jim Hall (guitar); Gene Cherico, Milt Hinton (bass); Connie Kay, Bobby Thomas, Osie Johnson (drums). Producer: George Avakian.)

This is different from most sax & strings efforts of the period in that the arrangements are thoughtful and never corny, and the string orchestra doesn’t drown out Desmond. This album succeeds because although it softens some of the edges of modern jazz, Desmond’s own style of cool and silky tones fits in perfectly with the strings. Other plusses on the session were the presence of famed guitarist Jim Hall, and the terrific string arrangements and conducting of Bob Prince. Desmond was a close friend of Prince and postponed the recording sessions until Prince had returned from recording two Jerome Robbins ballet scores in Europe. The arranger-conductor was Desmond’s choice, as was Jim Hall as co-soloist.

The location was Webster Hall in New York City and the time was June 1961 and March of 1962.  The original recording engineer was Ray Hall, and the remastering for Pure Pleasure Records was done by Ray Staff at Air Mastering in London.  The nine tracks are mostly standards, but certainly not standard arrangements for sax and strings. The opening “Funny Valentine” takes on a flavor of Elizabethan music, and the first number on Side 2, “I Should Care,” is an innovative blend of strings, reeds, French horn and harp plus Desmond, and includes more than just hints of Ibert’s evocative Escales Suite.  Much of the music is rather introspective and soothing in style, fitting in well with Desmond’s unique sound.

Both Desmond and Hall were leading cool jazz players in the ‘60s, both had worked with Dave Brubeck, as well as some of the bossa nova projects of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Their presence plus the inventive arrangements of Bob Price spell a finely-balanced and appealing album from beginning to end, in the very best sonics which deliver the string sounds with great richness and clarity.

TrackList: My Funny Valentine, Desmond Blue, Then I’ll Be Tired of You, I’ve Got You Under my Skin, Late Lament, I Should Care, Like Someone in Love, Ill Wind, Body and Soul.

—John Henry

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