Jazzman Plus Camera Equals Paul Desmond

Updated November 2021:

Three days ago, November 25th, would’ve been the great late Paul Desmond’s 97th birthday. A new post in honor of Mr. Desmond will show up here in the near future, but in the mean time, here’s an older post from three years ago featuring some rare photography taken by Paul Desmond himself. Happy birthday Paul!

Born on this day in 1924, today is Desmond’s 94th birthday.  For this year’s Desmond birthday post, I decided to focus on one of Desmond’s hobbies instead of music, which I did last year.  The hobby?  Photography.  In addition to being a first-rate jazz musician, erudite linguist and undercover comedian, Paul was a photographer.  In fact, he was a serious photographer who took pictures for most of his adult life.  Unfortunately, most of these photographs have disappeared, and there’s little evidence of Desmond’s prolific picture-taking.

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In 1957, Down Beat magazine published some of Desmond’s photography in a four-page spread in it’s annual yearbook issue, along with a brief blurb about the pictures from Desmond himself.  Taken in 1956, the pictures feature, among other people, the Brubeck Quartet from that time period, with Norman Bates, Joe Dodge and of course Brubeck himself all finding themselves on the opposite end of Paul’s lens.  Unfortunately, as Doug Ramsey writes in his book on Paul Desmond entitled Take FiveDown Beat subsequently lost the pictures and doesn’t have a copy of the magazine issue, either.  Fortunately, I tracked down a copy of the magazine online, and for Desmond’s birthday, have included the four-page spread from the “Music ’57” yearbook issue of Down Beat.  Desmond’s captions are humorous, as is his succinct introduction to the spread.  I particularly like the last few lines from his intro, where he wrote that “…when you’re finally free to take pictures, things have generally quieted down considerably.  I have, for example, 28 pictures of Joe Dodge yawning.”

It’s too bad that most of Desmond’s photographic output has been lost, but here’s to shining a light on a sliver of his work.  Happy birthday, Paul!

Desmond Photos
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