"Desmond Blue": Buy This, Not This!

Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond (Paul Emil Breitenfeld) best known for his work with Dave Brubeck made solo albums of greater musical consequence than his string-accented confection, including his duet album Two of A Mind (RCA LSP-2624) with Gerry Mulligan, also on RCA-Victor. Nonetheless, this album pleases every play.

The guitar great Jim Hall accompanies Desmond, backed by a lush string section, harp, woodwinds and rhythm section with "heavenly" orchestrations by Bob Prince that will have you floating from first note to last through a selection of mostly familiar standards, among them "My Funny Valentine", "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Like Someone In Love" and "I Should Care".

Though not credited on the album, the MJQ's Connie Kay plays drums on the opener "My Funny Valentine", with Gene Cherico on bass. The other tracks feature Bobby Thomas on drums and Milt Hinton on bass. The engineer is Ray Hall, the venue Webster Hall (no relation) and the producer is the reliable George Avakian.

The 49 minute album was recorded in three sessions, September 13th, 28th and October 2nd 1961 when Desmond was but 37 years old.

The recording quality is superbly transparent, spacious and three-dimensional in ways few recordings today manage. The images "float" in an airy expansive space that you'll enjoy visiting often.

You have a choice of four versions: the original RCA, the Classic Records reissue mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original tapes and pressed at RTI, or the more recent ones: one from Pure Pleasure mastered by Ray Staff at Air Mastering and pressed by Pallas or the most recent from Analog Spark cut by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound from the original analog master tapes, packaged in a Stoughton Press "tip on" jacket and also pressed at RTI.

First, please pass on the Pure Pleasure release cut from I don't know what, which costs the same as the Analog Spark version. Pure Pleasure has done some excellent reissuing but this one should never have been released. It's thick, dull and two-dimensional yet it costs the same as the Analog Spark version, which is open, transparent and everything described above.

When I played all versions "blind" at various store appearances, the PP lost every time but between the original, Classic and Analog Spark, opinions varied. The original, of course cut when the tape was new, and probably mastered with a tube system, is richer and warmer, but the vinyl can't compare to any of the reissues in terms of black backgrounds and quiet, though this latest RTI pressing wins by a considerable amount in that department.

If you already have an original or the Classic, I'd not buy this again but otherwise go for the Analog Spark reissue (have many more AS reissues to cover!). Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, lower your blood pressure and produce repeated bouts of pleasure.

Music Direct Buy It Now

markbrauer's picture

Will be checking this one out.

thomoz's picture

I have both stereo and mono originals of this and I think it's worthy of reissue in mono, really nice and dry, with tons of body.
One of his other RCA releases,
'Take Ten' is poorly represented on cd and Tidal (insanely bright stereo) and the original mono vinyl is jaw dropper, it just sounds amazing.

tzh21y's picture

I agree. the mono is great

bkinthebk's picture

I hope you have the KG mastered AS edition of Blind Melon's waaaay underrated sophomore (and final) effort, which is spectacular. I have to guess that this album may not be for most of the folks visiting your site, but they are one of the most musically unique bands to come out of the 90s with a mix of folk, hard rock, funkiness and super interesting arrangements. Unfortunately death came for Shannon Hoon at the young age of 28 only a couple months after the album dropped. It was a big loss for me ... i had tix to see them at Irving Plaza the following week. I think they may still be tucked away in a Kurt Vonnegut book in a box at my mom's house.

Apologies for the thread jack.



kleinbje's picture

Thanks for the article link, great reading. I still think I like my OP the best.

saxman73's picture

It is a great record, I agree. I have the Classic reissue and it sounds great. Paul Desmond is underrated. Another album I really like is "Pure Desmond", which has Ed Bickert, Ron Carter and Connie Kay in the seventies.

fbpearce's picture

This is a Bluebird reissue of Desmond Blue-got my copy for almost nothing and I'm very happy with the sound.

Analog Scott's picture

This review is the kind of review I find most useful. It's a great album so it's worth reviewing and you did a nice survey of contenders with comparisons done under blind conditions. Bravo. All I can ask is more please. Superbly

Jack Gilvey's picture

until the Fremer effect sent it out of stock! Found it on Tidal, though.