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Kerry Strayer: Jeru Blue: A Tribute to Gerry Mulligan

Kerry Strayer, a mainstay of the busy Kansas City scene, was inspired to play jazz thanks to Two of a Mind (1962; RCA Bluebird), the memorable collaboration of Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond. Although a baritone saxophonist like Mulligan, Strayer, with his more straight-ahead approach, doesn’t sound a thing like his idol. Here, rather than Mulligan the player, Strayer salutes Mulligan the composer. With eight Mulligan originals arranged for septet, Strayer gives us an opportunity to appreciate the uniquely engaging writing talent that was Mulligan’s.

Anchored by Mulligan’s last rhythm section (pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Ron Vincent), the four horns (tenor saxophonist Ted Nash, trumpeter Randy Brecker, trombonist John Mosca, and Strayer) give vibrant voice to varied Mulligan fare such as “Rio One,” “Tell Me When” and “Oh, Mr. Sauter? Yes, Mr. Finegan?”. Throughout, Strayer’s charts preserve Mulligan’s erudite yet witty style while providing plenty of solo space. The one original, Strayer’s ebullient title track, is a fitting addition.

Originally Published