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



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GERRY MULLIGAN -
CHET BAKER QUARTET

Complete Recordings (Master Takes)

American Jazz Classics 99031

 

 


CD1
1. Bernie's Tune
2. Lullaby of the Leaves
3. Utter Chaos
4. Line for Lyons
5. Carioca
6. My Funny Valentine
7. Bark for Barksdale
8. Utter Chaos
9.. Nights at the Turntable
10. Frenesi
11. Aren't You Glad You're You
12. Walkin' Shoes
13. Soft Shoe
14. Freeway
15. Limelight
16. The Lady Is a Tramp
17. Turnstile
18. Moonlight in Vermont
19. Dinah
20. She Didn't Say Yes, She Didn't Say No
21. Godchild
22. Poinciana
23. Aren't You Glad You're You
24. Get Happy
25. Cherry
26. Carson City Stage

CD2
1. Makin' Whoopee
2. Motel
3. My Old Flame
4All the Things You Are
5. Love Me or Leave Me
6. Jeru
7. Swing House
8. Utter Chaos
9. I May Be Wrong
10. I'm Beginning to See the Light
11. The Nearness of You
12. Tea for Two
13. Darn That Dream
14Varsity Drag
15. Speak Low
16. Half Nelson
17. Lady Bird
18. Love Me or Leave Me
19. Swing House
20. Five Brothers
21. I Can't Get Started
22. My Funny Valentine
23. Ide's Side
24. Fun House

Gerry Mulligan - Baritone sax
Chet Baker - Trumpet
Bob Whitlock - Bass (tracks I/1-3, 9-14)
Chico Hamilton - Drums (tracks I/1-18, I/21-24)
Carson Smith - Bass (tracks I/4-8, 15-18, 21-26, II/1-24)
Jimmy Rowles - Piano (tracks I/19-20)
Joe Mondragon - Bass (tracks I/19-20)
Larry Bunker - Drums (tracks I/25, 26, II/1-24)

 

When Gerry Mulligan formed his famous quartet in the early 1950s, it soon had the word "pianoless" attached to it, since the lack of a piano seemed unusual in jazz, where rhythm sections usually comprised piano, bass and drums. In fact the group''s first recordings - in July 1952 - included pianist Jimmy Rowles, heard here as tracks 19 and 20 on the first CD. But thereafter the quartet settled on its usual line-up.

In fact the outstanding feature of the group was not so much the lack of a piano but the way that it proved how interesting a pairing of trumpet and baritone saxophone could be: one high instrument and one low, interweaving in counterpoint and harmony on some ingenious arrangements. The absence of a piano actually helped the bassist to adopt a more significant role and left more space for Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan to improvise, which they both did brilliantly.

These qualities are all clear in this double album which contains all the mastertakes which the group recorded in 1952 and 1953, after which Chet decided to go solo and form his own band with Stan Getz. The special potential of the trumpet/sax/bass and drums line-up is evident if you compare most of the recordings with the two tracks that use the piano. Once the piano disappears, it brings the sax and trumpet into focus and their interplay is somehow more conspicuous. The role of the double bass also stands out more clearly. And the contributions of drummers Chico Hamilton and Larry Bunker add discreet drama where needed.

Beyond this, it is difficult to pick out particularly special tracks, as they are all equally good. Knowing how Chet Baker's playing deteriorated once he became devoted to drugs, it is comforting to hear him in this setting, where his solos are of a uniformly high standard. Gerry Mulligan seemed to revolutionise the use of the baritone sax, bringing a new fluency and coolness to the instrument. And the clear-lined arrangements are reminiscent of the clarity of the famous "Birth of the Cool" recordings, which Mulligan took part in.

With nearly 160 minutes of top-class music, this album is a bargain even at full price.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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