That’s right. As the title states, I thought I’d get into the Christmas spirit by making the ‘Desmond’s Quotes’ this holiday season focused on Christmas. I know what you’re thinking. “Gee, it was enough that you kept finding quotes among Paul Desmond’s music, but now you’re getting more specific with Christmasy stuff?”, or “you have too much time on your hands”, and perhaps “he couldn’t have quoted too many Christmas tunes”. Weeeeell, you’d be wrong on those last two and correct on the first. Between Desmond and Brubeck, there’s surprisingly quite a few examples of their merry music making that I can and will draw from. It’s a Christmas Miracle!
On this first Christmas edition of ‘Desmond’s Quotes’, we go to 1967. November 13, 1967, to be exact. The place? La Sayelle, in Paris, France. The Dave Brubeck Quartet is making their final European appearance of the year and playing to a packed house of appreciative fans. The concert was recorded and released on a Columbia album in 1968 entitled ‘The Last Time We Saw Paris’. The last song on the album was “Three To Get Ready”, a popular tune with the French. The quartet’s performance on this tune is filled with humor and taste. After Morello’s fun drum fills, Desmond steps up to the mic and has some fun himself, drunkenly quoting “Auld Lang Syne” to the audience’s delight. It’s a fitting quote, considering the circumstances of the concert. Moving on to his solo, Desmond makes passing references to both “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Rain Check” before making a committed quote of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” a few bars later. Desmond moves into a minor key before handing it to Brubeck.
Brubeck develops the minor tonality that Desmond set up, toying with a phrase that he then develops into a rather dark quote of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”. He stays within the minor key for the duration of his piano solo until he suddenly changes back into the brighter major key to close out the tune.
The recording comes from my vinyl copy, so ignore the brief clicking at the beginning of the song. This is the ‘Classic’ Quartet, with Eugene Wright on bass, Joe Morello on drums, and of course Brubeck at the piano and Desmond at the sax. Here’s the quartet on “Three To Get Ready”, followed by the songs they quote in their solo. Can you find them?
This was the least corny version I could find. Also the most groovy and swinging version I found.
If you couldn’t tell, Bill Evans is one of my favorite jazz pianists. That and I found it funny that serious Bill Evans recorded “Santa Claus”. If you didn’t catch the tunes, in their solos, “Auld Lang Syne” appears at 1:03, and “Rain Check” at 2:02. Desmond’s makes a brief allusion to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” at 1:55 and then fully commits at 2:12. Brubeck’s neat/melancholy reference to “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” shows up at 3:35. I’m sure there are other quotes to songs floating around in here that I’m not aware of, as some of their phrases sound familiar but I can’t place them. If you can, let me know!