Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gerry Mulligan – California Concerts

   The legendary baritone saxophonist, closely associated with of cool jazz also referred as West Coast style, was one of most creative musicians of his time. While he was most famous bari player ever, Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996) takes his fame evenly from mastery he achieved on every level from precise light sound, through catching compositions and inspired improvisations, to noted arrangements for Miles Davis and Stan Kenton and his artistic personality. Born in Queens Village (NY), he was raised mainly on the East Coast urban areas. Here from 1948 he was working with famous nonet run by Miles Davis, both as instrumentalist and as arranger. Compilation of recordings of nonets performances were published in 1956 as Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool album, giving the name for the whole style. 
   In spring of 1952 Gerry Mulligan moved to Los Angeles where he started to write arrangements for Stan Kenton’s Orchestra, and playing at The Haig jazz club. While jam sessions he met with young trumpeter from Oklahoma Chet Baker, with whom he established long time artistic cooperation. With drummer Chico Hamilton and Bob Whitlock on bass they created pianoless quartet. Lack of piano based chordal structures gave more space for modern polyphony in group improvisations, being both the overpassing of traditional chord changes and turn to traditional way of creating structures as an effect of concurrent improvisations. In later editions of this quartet Gerry Mulligan was sometimes switching from saxophone to piano.

Gerry Mulligan – California Concerts (1955)

   In 1953 Mulligan was arrested on charge of drug possession. After half year in prison he had to re-assemble his band, but Chet Baker was already involved in some other commitments. Mulligan sought to restore the quartet with Bob Brookmeyer playing valve trombone. Sometimes he played also with trumpeters Jon Eardley and Art Farmer, or saxophonists Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Lee Konitz. In 1954, in California they played concerts in Jazz Goes To High School project. Fragments of two concerts were published next year by Pacific Jazz Records. After many reeditions, full recordings were published in 1987 and in 1988. First volume was San Diego Hoover High School in December 14, 1954 published by EMI – Manhattan Records (CDP 7 46860 2). Second Stockton High School in December 12, 1954 published by Pacific Jazz Records (CDP 7 46864 2). First and most significant album contained material from both concerts shortened to about one third but dense and meaty.
First side recorded in Stockton is showing Mulligan’s quartet with Jon Eardley, Chico Hamilton and Red Mitchell. Program starts with Blues Ging Up and Little Girl Blue. In Piano Blues Gerry Mulligan is playing piano and Jon Eardley is playing trumpet theme. After solos by Mulligan and Red Mitchell on bass with neat dialoguing section, trumpet with piano back with theme and piano with section closes in coda. At the end of this side Yardbird Suite is swinging and sounds pretty smooth. Second side recorded in San Diego with sextet including Zoot Sims on tenor saxophone, Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone and piano, Jon Eardley on trumpet, Red Mitchell on bass, Larry Bunker on drums and leader Gerry Mulligan on baritone. In first part of the San Diego concert quartet was playing with the same lineup as two days earlier in Stockton, in second half Bunker changed Hamilton and Sims and Brookmeyer joined quartet. The program are three compositions Western Reunion, I Know I Don’t Know and The Red Door. It is a great recording with perfect feeling and great technique. It’s hard to believe it sounds so alive. Four and a half of the stars can shine as five.

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