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Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0961726676
ISBN-10: 0961726679
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Editorial Reviews


"... attractive combination of affection and candor... A serious, thoughtful book, as lucidly written as a first-class literary biography..." -- Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

"A major piece of jazz scholarship, the book cuts no corners." -- Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

"Every jazz musician should be lucky enough to get a biography as thoroughly researched and luxuriously produced." -- Paul deBarros, Seattle Times

"Rarely in the annals of jazz biography has a subject's career been documented so thoroughly... a monumental work." -- Downbeat Magazine, July, 2005

...an invaluable addition to jazz literature. I knew Paul Desmond, but I found so much more I did not know. -- Nat Hentoff, noted critic and jazz writer

The detail of the research is astonishing. The writing is exquisite. I've never seen a biography like it. -- Gene Lees, Editor of "The Jazz Letter"

This is the finest biography we've had of an important jazz figure. -- Dan Morgenstern (Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies)

About the Author

Doug Ramsey is a veteran print and television journalist, who has written extensively on jazz and jazz personalities.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Parkside Publications, Inc.; 1st edition (March 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0961726679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0961726676
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 10.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you have, like me, have been wondering for years why no one has written a biography of Paul Desmond before now (Desmond died over a quarter of a century ago), and if you are, like me, a long term fan of his music, then--again, like me--you will probably be both thrilled and disappointed by this book.

The only thing really wrong with it is...it just isn't enough. What is there is wonderful--especially a treasure trove of letters to and from Desmond and his father, from which Ramsey pulls long passages. The photos, too, are terrific, with many pictures of Desmond as a youth, and throughout his career. Most importantly, his early life in music is extraordinarily well documented. Ramsey has really done his homework here.

Sadly, though, his mature working life (mostly with the Dave Brubeck Quartet)is given very short shrift. I don't know whether the information was not available, or whether Mr. Ramsey just got tired of the research and writing and wanted to get the book out; but the end result is that we have almost no story of Desmond's many concert tours or studio sessions.

For example the DBQ's trip through Eastern Europe (musically recorded as "Jazz Impressions of Eurasia" is not covered in any depth, and DBQ's trip to Japan, from which came the wonderful album. "Jazz Impressions of Japan," is not mentioned at all. Nor is there any mention of how the songs on these albums came to be written or recorded.

What was a practice session with the Quartet like? We are not told. What happened in the studio, what was the give and take? WE have no idea. In fact, we get very little insight into the life and music of Desmond the recording artist in the studio, or the man and his music on the road.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Desmond was once one of the most well-known figures of jazz, stemming from his fame with "Take Five" and the Dave Brubeck Quartet. And with all his mysteries, self-destructive habits and enigmatic qualities, it seems like he would be the perfect subject for a biography. So it's a bit of a shock that "The Public & Private Lives of Paul Desmond" is his first and only biography and appears nearly thirty years after his death.

Luckily, many of his contemporaries, friends, and fellow musicians like Jim Hall and Dave Brubeck are still around so author and Paul's one-time friend Doug Ramsey does a pretty solid job here getting their take on the man. Ramsey also leans heavily on dozens of writings Desmond left behind so you get a extremely personal look at how Paul lived, worked and saw the world.

In terms of drawbacks, however, there are many. Ramsey seems to rely almost exclusively on letters at times as if he couldn't be bothered to dig deeper (for instance, Paul's childhood is particularly sketchy and has several gaps). I was really looking forward to this book because I'm a huge fan of the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet and detailed stories on them are surprisingly few and far between. And Ramsey does do a strong job developing the Brubeck/Desmond tandem and their various quartets - until 1958 that is. Then Ramsey tends to gloss over most of the classic Quartet's albums and much of their history. For instance, why did clarinetist Bill Smith sub for Paul on several albums? Why did Dave keep Paul in the group when he became unreliable and began missing concert dates? And just how did the classic Quartet work together in the studio? Ramsey doesn't always tell us.

There's a lot of patchwork here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Take Five" offers a huge amout of historical information about Paul Desmond. It is beautifully illustrated, with photos, copies of letters, and a few transcriptions of solos. It is a large, heavy, coffee table book.

Don't expect a flowing, narrative biography of Desmond's life. This book is more a collection of chronologically organized facts and extensive quotations. A great resource for anyone interested in Desmond, but it reads more like a research volume than an absorbing biography of a wonderful musician.
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Format: Hardcover
Doug Ramsey paints a vibrant, even voluminous picture of Desmond in this wonderful book, the most compelling picture of an artist I've ever read. Never in my reading has a biographer captured so completely the essence of a personality. In this book, you can feel Desmond's distinctive vibes: his tranquility, his humor, his warmth, his intelligence. You can even smell his cigarette smoke and taste the Dewar's. I am so grateful for this superb fleshing out of an important jazz artist. It couldn't have been done without the personal connection between Ramsey and Desmond, of course; one cannot underestimate the value to us fans and readers of that privileged intimacy. The only mystery remaining in the man is the one he left us all with, revealing its content not even to his friends and intimates. But that's a small price to pay for the huge picture I now possess of this curious and brilliant man. If I have a single criticism of the book, it is that no CD number is given for the Carnegie Hall concert of 1963! Thanks for the book, Doug.
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