Gerry Mulligan 3 CD Set on

Category: Music

Gerry Mulligan is one of the greatest baritone saxophonists in the history of jazz, with a truly remarkable tone, sense of phrasing, and creativity. It's easy to overlook Mulligan’s composing and arranging talents, but they too are of the highest caliber. This three-disc set offers several excellent examples of Mulligan’s playing and writing skills.

These sessions, mainly from December of 1957, prove that Mulligan was willing to showcase his talents in a wide variety of settings—from his quartet to an all-star nonet (with an eye-popping lineup of saxophonists), a string quartet, and an album with vocalist Annie Ross, Mulligan shows his versatility. He is also remarkably consistent, making pertinent contributions to each session. The sidemen (and one sidewoman) on this set are superb as well: Ross, trumpeters Chet Baker and Art Farmer, saxophonists Lee Konitz, Allan Eager, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, bassist Henry Grimes, and drummer Dave Bailey. We are lucky that Pacific Jazz producer Richard Bock was able to capture Mulligan in such a panoply of settings in such a short span of time.

One of Mulligan’s most famous ensembles was a piano-less quartet that he formed in the early fifties with trumpeter Chet Baker. They parted ways in 1953 but reunited in 1957 for the aptly named Reunion. Baker and Mulligan, along with Grimes and Bailey, tackle mainly standards on this session, which takes up all of the first disc of this three-CD set. The two horns mesh beautifully, whether in unison lines or in thematic variations where trumpet and baritone weave in and out in a kind of cat-and-mouse game.

The soloing is first rate, with Mulligan in particularly inspired form (as he is throughout these sessions). Grimes displays a nice, fat bass sound, and Bailey works well with him. The lack of a chordal instrument (piano or guitar) is not a problem at all. Grimes and Bailey keep things swinging at a jubilant clip on the mid- to uptempo numbers, such as Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology,” and the horns seem to enjoy the harmonic freedom, spinning creative tales of their own. Baker plays nicely as usual, but his seemingly indifferent approach at times strips a certain level of emotional impact from his sound.

Disc two begins with the formidable album The Gerry Mulligan Songbook, Vol. 1, where Mulligan is joined by the four previously noted saxophonists. The tunes are expertly arranged by Bill Holman; longtime Count Basie band guitarist Freddie Green joins Grimes and Bailey in the rhythm section. Holman really gets the most out of the five saxes, creating interesting textures and chords. Eager and Sims are heard on both alto and tenor, Cohn plays tenor and baritone, while Konitz and Mulligan play their usual axes, alto and bari respectively. Konitz’s approach, especially his excellent lyrical lines and quirky phrasing, contrasts sharply with that of the other saxophonists, despite their sharing a primary stylistic influence: Lester Young.

For listeners who are unable to identify each saxophonist individually, the original liner notes are particular helpful. Nat Hentoff uses what he calls a “solo box score,” which helps the listener immensely. Mosaic reprints the original liner notes and cover art where applicable, something the label has only done in the Select series, and it is a welcome enhancement. The one slight drawback to this session is the sometimes poor editing that occurs. Pacific Jazz was notorious for this problem, but fortunately for listeners, it does not detract much from the wonderful music.

Disc two concludes with four tracks from the session that was supposed to make up an album called Stringtime (the first five selections from the last disc are also from this session). This is definitely the strangest and probably weakest session here, although there are some interesting moments. Cellist Calo Scott is the standout musician, aside from Mulligan, contributing a number of fine solos. Although the four tunes from the second disc were released, this date clearly did not work quite according to plan. More rehearsal time was needed—the quartet and Mulligan seem hesitant in a number of places.

The bulk of the third disc contains the sessions with vocalist Annie Ross. Some of the tunes were originally put out under Ross’ name on the World Pacific label; the resulting album was called Annie Ross Sings a Song of Mulligan. The vocalist is backed by the same quartet that appears on the first CD of this set, for two December ‘57 sessions. The ensemble changes slightly for the September 1958 session, with Art Farmer replacing Baker on trumpet, and Bill Crow replacing Grimes on bass.

These tunes are all standards, mostly well-known ones, and Ross puts her own spin on each of them. Be it the quickly paced “It Don’t Mean a Thing” or the slow and sublime version of “I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face” (two versions are included), the vocalist brings out the true meaning of each song, without making them sound contrived or superficial. “You Turned The Tables On Me” is blues-tinged and Mulligan bobs and weaves around Ross’ voice. The addition of Farmer is a welcome change, as his sound is darker and fuller than Baker's. Farmer was Mulligan’s trumpeter at the time; they also recorded a beautiful quartet album for Columbia called What Is There To Say.

Disc One:

1. Reunion (4:05)
2. When Your Lover Has Gone (5:06)
3. Star Dust (4:41)
4. My Heart Belongs To Daddy (4:11)
5. Jersey Bounce (4:25)
6. Surrey With Fringe On Top (4:39)
7. Ornithology (5:10)
8. Trav'lin' Light (3:40)
9. People Will Say We're In Love (3:41)
10. Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You (3:35)
11. The Song Is You (3:21)
12. Festive Minor (4:08)
13. I Got Rhythm (5:59)
14. Trav'lin' Light/alt take (4:32)
15. Gee Baby,Ain't I Good To You/alt take -
16. All The Things Your Are (6:47)

Disc Two:

1. Four And One Moore (4:21)
2. Crazy Day (7:02)
3. Turnstile (4:09)
4. Sextet (4:15)
5. Disc Jockey Jump/full version (4:32)
6. Venus De Milo (5:07)
7. Revelation (4:58)
8. Crazy Day/mono take (7:03)
9. Turnstile/mono take (7:53)
10. May-Reh (6:01)
11. The Preacher (6:26)
12. Good Bait (4:37)
13. Bag's Groove (3:57)

Disc Three:

1. Lullaby In Rhythm (4:29)
2. Body And Soul (4:22)
3. Out Of Nowhere (4:12)
4. I'll Remember April (5:04)
5. I Can't Get Started (5:00)
6. I Feel Pretty (3:31)
7. How About You (2:48)
8. I've Grown Accustomed To His Face (2:59)
9. This Time The Dream's On Me (3:21)
10. Let There Be Love (3:42)
11. All Of You
12. Give Me The Simple Life (3:33)
13. This Is Always (4:19)
14. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
15. It Don't Mean A Thingm, If It Ain't Got That
Swing(unedited version) (2:07)
16. The Lady's In Love With You (2:23)
17. My Old Flame (3:47)
18. Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans (2:23)
19. You Turned Tables On Me (3:22)
20. This Is Always/first version (3:57)
21. I've Grown Accustomed to His Face/first
version (3:04)


Chet Baker, Art Farmer: trumpet
Lee Konitz: alto saxophone
Allan Eager, alto and tenor saxophone
Zoot Sims, alto and tenor saxophone
Al Cohn, tenor and baritone saxophone
Gerry Mulligan, baritone saxophone
Freddie Green, Paul Palmieri, guitar
Dick Wetmore, violin
Calo Scott, cello
Henry Grimes, Vinnie Burke, Bill Crow, bass Dave Bailey, drums
Annie Ross, vocal
Bill Holman, arranger.

From Liner Booklet:

In December 1957, Pacific Jazz's Dick Bock came to New York for several weeks of a marathon recording schedule that included dates by Bob Brookmeyer and Chet Baker as well as four Gerry Mulligan sessions, all of which reflected a great deal of creative conceptualization and planning.
The first project was a reunion of Gerry and Chet Baker. The quartet with Henry Grimes and Dave Bailey recorded enough material for two albums, though only one was issued at the time. By no means nostalgic, Mulligan and Baker take a fresh approach to material they'd never tackled before.

The crown jewel of this set is The Gerry Mulligan Songbook, released on CD in stereo here for the first time. Bill Holman arranged six celebrated Mulligan compositions from various stages of his career for a sublime sax section that consisted of Lee Konitz, Allen Eager, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Mulligan, superbly anchored by Freddie Green, Grimes and Bailey. Mulligan wrote and arranged a seventh for the occasion. The writing and solos are excellent throughout. The stereo and mono versions of three tunes differ and all versions are included.

The most unusual date here is the one with the Vinnie Burke String Quartet, which consists of guitar, violin, cello and bass, with Mulligan and Dave Bailey. Eight of the nine selections were slated to come out as Stringtime, a cover was created, but the album never materialized, although four tunes later appeared on CD. The strings with pizzicato violin and cello on the melodies add a light, open texture to the arrangements.

Annie Ross Sings A Song Of Mulligan was the first and best of three albums that this extraordinary singer made for World Pacific. Her unerring sense of pitch and musicianship made her ideal for jazz settings, especially one such as this with no chordal instrument to provide a tonal center. At the December sessions, she plays with the reunion quartet and, in September 1958, with Mulligan's then current quartet with Art Farmer, Bill Crow and Bailey. Six bonus tracks have been added to the album.

These four wide-ranging projects recorded in the space of two weeks glimpse the enormous palette from which Gerry Mulligan drew throughout his career.

The informative 20 page liner booklet is worth the price of admission in itself. An in depth look at the artist and how these selections came around. Great reading and great insight.