Live at the Jazz Showcase
Back in the early Fifties, when Gerry Mulligan formed his famous quartet with Chet Baker, it was without a piano to provide that front line with the ultimate harmonic freedom. In 1960, when Mulligan expanded his composing and arranging palettes to embrace the 13-member Concert Jazz Band, he again eschewed piano. Four years ago, when Chicago's Ted Hogarth created his homage to Mulligan with the Mulligan Mosaics Big Band, the latter consisted of 13 players but no pianist. That's where most similarities end.
Hogarth has successfully re-created the spirit of the original Concert Jazz Band (he was given total access to the Mulligan library by Gerry's widow, Franca), with first-class Chicago-area musicians, but the spirit of the solo work fails to match the the original excitement of exploration. No surprises there; how can one expect baritonist Hogarth to duplicate the pristine freshness of the two Mulligan solos on the Brookmeyer chart, "A Ballad," or what tenorist Mark Colby does with Bill Holman's arrangement of "Apple Core," originally peeled by Zoot Sims? Another highlight comes on the Billy Strayhorn composition, "Intimacy of the Blues." As arranged by Tom Matta, the orchestration of the horns behind Colby and Matta's own trumpet are sufficiently chordal to make up for the comping of a piano or guitar.
Hogarth's intent, for this project, is to honor-by-update...not to duplicate. He successfully refreshes the Mulligan message and even makes orchestrations available online through the Library of Congress. That should provide enough to feed a whole new generation plenty of Mulligan stew.