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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Blues in Time

Verve 0602517995789



1. Blues in Time
2. Body and Soul
3. Standstill
4. Line for Lyons
5. Wintersong
6. Battle Hymn of the Republican
7. Fall Out

Gerry Mulligan - Baritone sax
Paul Desmond - Alto sax
Joe Benjamin - Bass
Dave Bailey - Drums


Gerry Mulligan is probably still best-known for the pianoless quartet he led with trumpeter Chet Baker in the early 1950s. The group on this 1957 CD might be described as a variant of that quartet, with Paul Desmond's alto sax replacing the trumpet. In fact Desmond's clear, high-pitched alto can readily sound like a trumpet. Joe Benjamin and Dave Bailey keep the rhythm flowing so well that you hardly notice the absence of a pianist.

As with the Mulligan quartet, the line-up supplies plenty of opportunities for counterpoint between the two horns, and the saxophones interweave joyfully. Mulligan also frequently provides a harmonic base for Desmond to play above.

Mulligan and Desmond composed three tracks each, while the only jazz standard is the well-worn Body and Soul. Paul Desmond's opening title-track gives the saxists the chance to swap solos to and fro. They take Body and Soul very slowly, and Joe Benjamin anchors the music with his strong double bass. This track illustrates how melodiously both the saxophonists extemporise, and they play tag - responding to one another's inventions in developing the theme.

Standstill is a Mulligan composition (based on the chord sequence of My Heart Stood Still) which doesn't stay still but moves along at an easy pace. Line for Lyons was a favourite of the old Mulligan Quartet and it is educative to compare it with the original. You might call it a variation on the original concept, retaining the chamber-music feel. Wintersong is a Paul Desmond tune which has the lyricism he so often produced with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Joe Benjamin's bass is again outstanding here - in fact it seems to have been recorded more prominently than Dave Bailey's drums, which are seldom to the fore.

Paul Desmond also wrote Battle Hymn of the Republican (a title reflecting his Democratic leanings), on which both men get extended solos. The tune sounds to me as if it is based on the chords of Tea for Two, which Mulligan played with the Dave Brubeck Quartet when he sat in with them at Carnegie Hall three years earlier. The all-too-short programme (barely 46 minutes) ends with Fall Out, a cheerful Mulligan composition.

In the sleeve-note, Paul says of Gerry: "He just does the right things". The same might be said of the whole quartet.

Tony Augarde

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