So last Sunday April 6th was the day in 1927 that saxophonist Gerry Mulligan was born. Mulligan is another in what is becoming a long line of jazz musicians whose name I am familiar with, but whose music I never really listened to. As I try to figure our why, the only explanation that I have is that I’ve always associated Mulligan with Dave Brubeck and since I really don’t care that much for Brubeck, I have never explored the music of Mulligan.- Mistake! So I in my usual style I started my exploration of Gerry Mulligan at Wikipedia where I read….
Gerald Joseph “Gerry” Mulligan (April 6, 1927 – January 20, 1996) was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger. Though Mulligan is primarily known as one of the leading baritone saxophonists in jazz history – playing the instrument with a light and airy tone in the era of cool jazz – he was also a notable arranger, working with Claude Thornhill, Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, and others. Mulligan’s pianoless quartet of the early 1950s with trumpeter Chet Baker is still regarded as one of the more important cool jazz groups. Mulligan was also a skilled pianist and played several other reed instruments. Read More
Then I checked AllMusic where I read:
(Mulligan) The most famous and probably greatest jazz baritonist of all time, Gerry Mulligan was a giant. A flexible soloist who was always ready to jam with anyone from Dixielanders to the most advanced boppers, Mulligan brought a somewhat revolutionary light sound to his potentially awkward and brutal horn and played with the speed and dexterity of an altoist.
and then I read……
Gerry Mulligan’s first notable recorded work on baritone was with Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool nonet (1948-50) but once again his arrangements (“Godchild,” “Darn That Dream” and three of his originals “Jeru,” “Rocker” and “Venus de Milo”) were more significant than his short solos.Full Biography
After reading more about his illustrious career at both of the above sites, I started reviewing some of the albums available at Spotify while checking the rating the albums were given at AllMusic. One of the first albums that caught my attention was Mulligan’s 1957 release Mulligan Meets Monk. The album received 4 stars from the editors and five stars from users! I also checked out a book that I picked up on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble Original Jazz Classics which is a guide to 200 classic jazz albums. Mulligan Meets Monk is the only album listed under Gerry Mulligan.The album received 4.5 stars from Downbeat It released on Riverside Records and produced by Orrin Keepnews. The pairing of these two seemingly different artists, A west coast cool jazz sax player and an Eastern bop pianist seemed strange. the two artist were actually both revolutionaries who both respected and expanded the boundaries of jazz and on top of that they were friends.
In his review at AllMusic Anthony Tognazzini writes:
Though the pairing may seem unlikely, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan — whose cool, West Coast style blends dexterity with laid-back grace — and Thelonious Monk — whose radical, angular piano playing and thoroughly modern compositions are blueprints for the possibilities of bop — sound remarkable together. In fact, it is the contrast between the players’ styles that lends this set its balance and appeal Continue Reading
I really, really liked the album! I love the sound of Mulligan’s sax! After listening to that album; I also listened to bits of Mulligan’s 1992 release Re-Birth of Cool. The concept behind that album was to update the music of Birth of Cool using newer recording equipment. Miles was interested in the project but unfortunately passed way before the project was started. The album sounds great and I will be listening to both Birth and Re-Birth more fully in the near future. I also listened to several tracks from Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster released in 1963 another winner.. And finally as I’ve been writing this some of the best of Mulligan and Chet Baker has been playing in the background, and I can tell you that I’m going to be listening to some of these for a while, 1988’s Reunion with Chet Baker is paying now – great stuff from both musicians!!!
So as I add Mulligan to my list of favorite jazz artists and the list grows and grows,I wonder – will there be enough time for other genres?? The one good thing though is, jazz is great for reading and that’s where I’m headed now! As I go down the home stretch in James Lee Burke’s Light of the World – maybe with Mulligan and Baker leading the way!!