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Paul Desmond was an American jazz musician and composer who achieved lasting fame playing the alto saxophone with the Dave Brubeck Quartet for whom he wrote the classic single 'Take Five' which became a worldwide hit in 1961. It featured on the 1959 album 'Time Out' featuring Brubeck, Desmond, bass player Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello and was nominated as Record of the Year at the 1961 Grammy Awards and was admitted to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996. Desmond had a prominent solo career and led a quartet and a quintet under his own name but he continued to record and perform with Brubeck until his death from cancer aged 52 in 1977.

Born in San Francisco where his father played the piano and organ in movie theatres, he took up the violin as a child but turned to the clarinet in high school and the alto saxophone at university. After military service during World War II he began to play jazz professionally until he joined up with Brubeck at the age of 24. 'The Dave Brubeck Octet began recording in 1948 with Desmond as a regular until 1951 when Brubeck formed his quartet. Many popular albums followed until the quartet broke up in 1967. Desmond performed and recorded with his quartet and artists such as baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, guitarist Jim Hall, the Modern Jazz Quartet, guitarist Gabor Szabo, trumpeter Chet Baker and singer Art Garfunkel.

Desmond was nominated for five Grammy Awards independent of Brubeck or his own quartet starting with a nod for Best Original Jazz Composition for 'Desmond Blue' in 1962; 'Take Ten' was nominated for the same prize the following year. He was nominated for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance By Small Group for 'Glad to Be Unhappy' (1965), Best Jazz Performance By a Large Group for 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (1970) and Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Performance for his 1979 album 'Paul Desmond'. A heavy drinker and smoker and known as a lady's man, he continued to perform as his health began to fail with a final performance at New York's Avery Fisher Hall in February 1977 with Brubeck.


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