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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




JoanRecords.com

Gerry Mulligan Quartet

With Chet Baker

Portrait

BLUE classic line saban crescendo 7258

 

 

  1. My Funny Valentine
  2. Bark for Barksdale
  3. Moonlight in Vermont
  4. The lady is a Tramp
  5. Turnstile
  6. Makin’Whopee
  7. Cherry
  8. Love Me or Leave Me
  9. Swing House
  10. Jeru
  11. The Nearness of You
  12. I May Be Wrong
  13. I’m Beginning to See the Light
  14. Tea for Two
  15. Five Brothers
  16. Bernie’s Tune
  17. Lullaby of the leaves
  18. Walking Shoes
  19. Freeway
  20. Frenesi
  21. Nights AT the turntable
  22. Aren’t You Glad You’re You
  23. Line for Lyons
  24. Carioca

Gerry Mulligan – Baritone
Chet Baker - Trumpet
Carson Smith – Bass
Chico Hamilton – Drums
Bobby Whitlock – Bass (16 to 24)
Larry Bunker – Drums (6 to 15)

The Gerry Mulligan Quartet is one of the most famous of all jazz outfits, although it lasted only just over a year. It was a year in which many never to be forgotten tracks were to be recorded by the group. Gerry Mulligan was at his most creative as both Saxophonist and Arranger and Chet Baker was on top of his form. Mulligan had the idea of the Quartet without a piano because he thought it would free up the horns, With musicians of the calibre of Mulligan and Baker it could hardly fail, their ability to improvise instant counterpoint is still remarkable today. The lack of piano however put a great deal of extra responsibility on the bass player and drummer and Carson Smith and Bobby Whitlock and Larry Bunker and Chico Hamilton respectively handle the task with neat, crisp rhythm section lines.

Eight of the tracks are Mulligan originals although some of them pre-date the Quartet. I first heard the band in 1953, just before starting as a National Serviceman in the RAF and I thought they were the ‘coolest thing’ I had ever heard. Chet Baker was unknown in the UK at this time, but a couple of years later he was winning ‘Down Beat’ polls. Both Mulligan and Baker had their problems with narcotics; although Mulligan conquered the ‘demons’ and went on to have a magnificent career in music. Baker was not so fortunate and suffered many setbacks in his remaining career; he still managed to play the trumpet beautifully even after losing all his teeth. He died in rather strange circumstances falling from an Amsterdam hotel window in 1988.

This collection is essential for all serious collectors of jazz, the music still sounds fresh some 50 years after it was recorded, the playing is immaculate and the group instantly identifiable. It holds the listener’s attention with ease despite the limited instrumentation. It is hard to pick out particular tracks, because each contains something interesting, but the treatment of Tea for Two is particularly interesting, as is the counterpoint on Five Brothers. You can’t select a worst track because there isn’t one!

Don Mather

 



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