Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Gerry Mulligan: And the Concert Jazz Band featuring Zoot Sims, Zurich 1960

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

November 17, 1960, was a good night for Mulligan’s 13-piece band and a triumphal one for his guest soloist, Zoot Sims. Two nights later in Paris, as captured on a Europe 1 CD (RTE 1505-2), Sims had a fine solo on “Apple Core,” Mulligan’s transformation of “Love Me or Leave Me.” On the same piece in Zurich, Sims was incandescent. He played at a level of swing and invention seldom achieved by a soloist. Improvisation so exalted almost never takes place in a studio and is rarely captured on a live recording. Paul Gonsalves reached such a peak with Ellington at Newport in 1956 on “Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue,” Jim Hall on “Stompin’ at the Savoy” in Art Farmer’s quartet at the Half Note in 1963. Sims’ Zurich “Apple Core” is in that league. His passion and logic are equally intense throughout the five-minute performance and escalate during two long sections of stop-time breaks. In the fervor of its ovation, the audience nearly matches Zoot’s vigor-and no wonder.

At a slower tempo on Ben Webster’s blues “Go Home,” Sims builds up another powerful head of steam while the band softly riffs behind him on a theme that goes back at least as far as King Oliver’s “Chimes Blues.” Sims’ playing is extraordinary, but Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer and several other soloists are not far behind. Trumpeters Conte Candoli and Don Ferrara and the brilliant alto saxophonist Gene Quill have splendid solos. Mel Lewis, working hand in glove with bassist Buddy Clark, drives the band with the crispness and power that marked him as one of the greatest of all big band drummers.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.