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Jazz is often a cooperative enterprise. But that doesn’t mean that jazz musicians are always good at cooperating. Far from it, as, for example, Charles Mingus learned when Duke Ellington demanded that he resign from the Ellington Orchestra for having chopped Juan Tizol’s chair in two with a fire ax in the middle of a performance after the trombonist pulled a knife on him.
Probability says that Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond should have gotten along about as well as Tizol and Mingus. An amphetamine-dependent, chain-smoking womanizer certainly doesn’t seem like the ideal partner for an (eventually) deeply Catholic, even-tempered family man. But to understand such an extraordinarily improbable 33-year partnership, we’d better go back to the beginning.