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Reviewers: Tony Augarde, Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux,, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thomson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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OKB TRIO

The Ing ...

Queens Jazz OverGround QJOG-1801 [69:50]

 

 

GERRY MULLIGAN

Four Classic Albums

AVID AMSC1282 [74:59 + 76:16]

CD1

1-8: ‘Presenting The Gerry Mulligan Sextet’

1. Mud Bug

2. Sweet And Lovely

3. Apple Core

4. Nights On The Turntable

5. Broadway

6. Everything Happens To Me

7. The Lady Is A Tramp

8. Bernie’s Theme

9-14: ‘A Profile of Gerry Mulligan’

9. Makin’ Whoopee

10. Demanton

11. Duke Ellington Medley-Moon Mist/ In A Sentimental Mood

12. Westward Walk

13. La Plus Que Lente

14. Blues

CD2

1-6: ‘Mainstream of Jazz’

1. Elevation

2. Mainstream

3. Ain’t It The Truth

4. Igloo

5. Blue At The Roots

6. Lollypop

7-13: ‘The Gerry Mulligan Songbook’

7. Four And One Moore

8. Crazy Day

9. Turnstile

10. Sextet

11. Disc Jockey Jump

12. Venus De Milo

13. Revelation

The tight focus of these four classic Mulligan LPs shows just what a high level of instrumental finesse was achieved between the years 1955-57. With a shifting but essentially corporate personnel and with men such as Jon Eardley and Zoot Sims and drummer Dave Bailey often on call, there was a sure sense of identity and familiarity in these sessions.

The album called Presenting the Gerry Mulligan Sextet enshrines some of the wittiest and most characteristic of Mulligan’s playing on these dates. The way in which the players pick up the tail-end of each other’s themes and spin variations on them is both delightful and charming, and so too are the spare but always deft backing figures on such as Mud Bug, an occasionally overlooked feature of these small group sessions. There are blues hues permeating that old favourite Sweet and Lovely and in Apple Core, one of two Mulligan originals on this date, Bob Brookmeyer is full of invention and wit. On Mulligan’s Nights on the Turntable Eardley, a wretchedly underrated artist, demonstrates his cornet-like tone and solos with exquisite, painterly beauty whilst the leader’s vocalised tone, allied to the mobility and athleticism of his articulation, illuminate Everything Happens to Me. Here Brookmeyer takes a piano solo, something the personnel listings – which are by no means infallible – fails to reflect. (They also refer to the tenor player as John Sims in one LP whilst calling him Zoot in the others.)

A Profile of Gerry Mulligan follows but was recorded at around the same time but, given there were different recording dates involved, sometimes with a slightly different personnel. The great merits of the band – elegant swinging drive allied to textural clarity – are audible throughout. The beautiful pastel colours of the Ellington medley – Moon Mist and In a Sentimental Mood – show the ensemble at its most refined, though allowing Mulligan to take composer credit for Debussy’s La plus que lente is taking things a little too far. Mulligan had a fondness for blues piano and takes a long solo on the instrument in the LP’s longest track, the honestly entitled Blues.

The sextet recorded an album called Mainstream of Jazz during 1956. There are six tracks, half Mulligan compositions, and the contrapuntal wit on Mainstream is something to hear whilst Ain’t It The Truth reveals the effortlessly swinging dynamo generated by the band. Like Mulligan himself Eardley could mine earlier inspirations as far back as Bix whilst also incorporate them into a contemporary lexicon; a really progressive and interesting player. OnBlue at the Roots Mulligan again gets down on the piano. The Songbook album with a stellar sax contingent on board – Lee Konitz, Alan Eager, Sims, Al Cohn – offers intricacy of ensemble sound and a clear sense of linear direction. Crazy Day shows Mulligan’s incorporation of the old school Jazz verities – helped in no small degree by having guitarist Freddie Green with him - and those sax stars play with verve and finesse, augmented by Bill Holman’s articulate arrangements of Mulligan’s songs.

The original liner notes have been retained and typography is clear. Personnel typos and omissions as noted. Reproduction is excellent and anyone who has failed to acquire these superb sets can do so at a generous price.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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