Paul Desmond

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I was unfashionable before anyone knew who I was.

Paul Desmond (25 November 192430 May 1977), born Paul Emil Breitenfeld, was a jazz alto saxophonist and composer born in San Francisco, best known for the work he did in the Dave Brubeck Quartet and for penning the group's greatest hit, "Take Five".


  • I could only write at the beach, and I kept getting sand in my typewriter.
    • His reason for not pursuing a literary career
  • I hate the way he writes. I kind of love the way he lives, though.
  • I have won several prizes as the world’s slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness.
  • I think I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to sound like a dry martini.
    • About his distinctive light sound
  • I tried practicing for a few weeks and ended up playing too fast.
    • About the value of practice
  • I was unfashionable before anyone knew who I was.
    • About his playing style
  • It's like living in a house where everything's painted red.
  • Not for me. If I want to tune everybody out, I just take off my glasses and enjoy the haze.
    • On contact lenses
  • Sometimes I get the feeling that there are orgies going on all over New York City, and somebody says, `Let's call Desmond,' and somebody else says,'Why bother? He's probably home reading the Encyclopedia Britannica.'
  • Well, that I'm not playing better.
    • When asked by Gene Lees what accounted for the melancholy in his playing
  • Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can’t be taught.
  • You're beginning to sound like a cross between David Frost and David Susskind, and that is a cross I cannot bear.
    • His response to the annoying banality of an interviewer

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