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Gerry Mulligan Quartet: The Gerry Mulligan Quartet In Concert

These previously unreleased performances by the baritone saxophonist capture two editions, five years apart, of his quartet with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. They demonstrate the vitality and swing the horn players generated and the sophistication and chance-taking that increased the longer they stayed together. The 1957 pieces are from a Hollywood Bowl concert with Joe Benjamin on bass and Dave Bailey on drums (not Donald Bailey, as the personnel listing has it). Near the end of “Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are” is counterpoint with Brookmeyer as uncanny as Mulligan’s intertwining lines with Chet Baker in the original quartet, and more joyous. The set also has a first-rate version of “Bweebida Bobbida.” During his Mulligan period, Brookmeyer was making full use of his repertoire of smears, growls, shouts and half-valve chokes. The effects were not gimmicks. He worked them into his hybrid style of traditionalist verve, bebop complexity and original harmonic thinking to become an ideal foil for what has been called Mulligan’s old-time modern playing. The two players constructed improvised lines that exposed them for what they were: superb composers, collaborating in instantaneous compositions.

Four pieces recorded in concert in Paris in 1962 find the quartet not at the peak it reached a couple of weeks later in Zurich (as heard on the TCB CD Zurich 1962). Nonetheless, they include a very good performance of Brookmeyer’s “Open Country,” one of Mulligan’s evocative “Love in New Orleans” and his ingenious waltz “Four for Three.” The longest piece of the concert, and the most stimulating, is a “Subterranean Blues” in which Brookmeyer plays piano. He and Mulligan go farther outside conventional guideposts than most mainstream musicians attempted in the early ’60s. Sections of Brookmeyer’s solo are polytonal nearly to the point of atonality, but never abandon the blues spirit maintained by Bill Crow’s bass lines. Gus Johnson’s four-bar breaks in this tune remind us what a remarkable drummer he was. He had flawless time and the kind of indefinable musical humor that a mastery of rhythm can allow.

Originally Published