With Love to Gerry
The English bandleader Vic Lewis first recorded a big-band album of Gerry "Jeru" Mulligan's music in 1953. Lewis always wanted to return to the studios for more of same, but time and commitments intervened on both sides of the pond. So what we have now is a swinging love paean to Mulligan by the cream of the West Coast crop. And the creme de la creme oozes out of Andy Martin's trombone: the opening and closing tracks are versions of Mulligan's "Noblesse," both arranged by Gordon Goodwin and both utilizing a five-part trombone choir comprised of the over-dubbed Martin. Those poetic changes give you some insight into the fertile mind of Jeru. The phrasing lends insight into Martin's consistency and skills.
This project is all highlights. Consider the personnel: a compatible front line of Bob Summers, trumpet; Martin and Bob McChesney, trombones; backed by Christian Jacob, piano; Trey Henry, bass; and Ray Brinker, drums. Consider some of the arrangers: Bill Holman, Bob Brookmeyer, Manny Albam.
Now consider some of the tracks. The neglected Ellington gem "I'm Gonna Go Fishing" (the only song not by Mulligan) is a slow waltz that begins with a lilting, simple, four-note piano vamp that becomes stretched-out paradise for the solo-hungry sidemen. "Go Home" is right up there with "Noblesse" as a showstopper. It features both trombones in lachrymose thirds, with a muted Summers seemingly teasing them before he dominates the solo statements. McChesney does some of his best solo work, but the one you can' take your ears off of is Trey Henry, one of the top walkers on the scene.
The reprise of "Noblesse" is for full combo (the opening version was Andy Martin times five-no rhythm), but McChesney shows his engineering chops by seamlessly stitching in a portion of the original approach. Why not? What's wrong with a second helping of Mulligan stew?