Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gerry Mulligan: Part 3

“… when you get a guy like Gerry around a band, all the other arrangers start writing a little better.” 
– Miles Davis

“It took me a while to learn [that what to leave out of an arrangement is often more important than knowing what to put in] …, and it wasn’t until my writing for the Miles Davis sessions on Capitol that the ability to use space began to take shape in my work. You’ve just got to have space in jazz writing. 
– Gerry Mulligan

[Un]like Gerry and Gil Evans and Duke, some guys try to fill it all up.”
 – Miles Davis

[Gerry’s writing influence] has become so general [i.e.: pervasive], they won’t know to give him credit in the next generation.” 
– John Lewis

“Gerry had a lot to do with reminding modern writers and players that humor in jazz was not a cardinal sin.” 
– Nat Hentoff

[Gerry’s writing] … contained a lyric quality and a strong feeling for the ‘good times’ spirit of the older, less organized forms in early jazz band writing and group improvising.” 
Bill Crow

[Gerry] seems to have understood that the principal objective of the arranger should be to respect the personality of each performer while at the same time giving the group a feeling of unity.” 
– Andre’ Hodier

© - Steven A. Cerra: copyright protected, all rights reserved.

One would have thought that it was time for Gerry Mulligan to rest after 20 years of combining his big band writing accomplishments from the late 1940s and early 1950s, with the formation of his piano-less quartet in the early 1950’s, the quartets and sextets he created throughout the remainder of the 1950s and the development of the original Concert Jazz Band with its [unfortunately] brief existence during the first few years of the 1960’s.

But perhaps, as is the case with never getting enough of anything that we do well, as the next step in his already considerable career, Gerry Mulligan amazingly began a 5-year association with Dave Brubeck after the latter disbanded his 17-year-old classic quartet with Paul Desmond in 1967.

All things considered, it was an amazing pairing of two of the greatest creative forces in the history of modern Jazz, and yet, given their joint accomplishments, the pairing of these Jazz Giants almost went unnoticed.

Perhaps this was because as Leonard Feather observed, Dave and Gerry’s quartet with Jack Six on bass and Alan Dawson on drums jelled so easily and so quickly:

“Before the group was two weeks old, a substantial repertoire had been assembled, composed of originals by Brubeck and Mulligan …. The public reaction to the new combo was consistently enthusiastic. The addition of Mulligan, and the curiosity value of hearing Dave in a new context, reinforced an already fervent interest.”

There was an precedent for Dave’s and Gerry’s later involvement with one another for they had formed a mutual admiration that dated back to the earliest days of their respective careers.

As Fred M. Hall, Dave Brubeck’s biographer, explains:

“In the early 1950s, Dave had worked the Blackhawk in San Francisco, and Gerry worked at the Haig in Los Angeles, and they would exchange locations – fellow musical pioneers, passing in the night. Both had, of course, heard and admired each other. ….

Mulligan was impressed by Dave’s playing, early on. ‘He always plays percussively and orchestrally. He gets top marks as both a musician and as a human being. Dave has always been a close friend, and from the very start, I’ve always thought there was a relationship there that probably started in a previous life.’” [It’s About Time: The Dave Brubeck Story, Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 1996, p. 119].

Dave may have also had a hand in Gerry’s quartet recordings for that label in the early 1950s. In his 1995 reply to a letter Jim Harrod had written him about his research into the history of the Pacific Jazz label, Dave Brubeck did confirm his endorsement of Mulligan to record for Fantasy:

"I do recall that I pushed for them [Max and Sol Weiss, the owners of Fantasy] to record Gerry because at that time I thought I was part owner of Fantasy and I wanted to build a roster for the label filled with top drawer artists."

And Dave certainly returned the compliment when he expressed the following about Gerry to Nat Hentoff:

“When you listen to Gerry, you feel as if you were listening to the past, present, and future of jazz, all in one tune, and yet it’s done with such taste and respect that you’re not ever aware of a change in idiom. Mulligan gets the old New Orleans two-beat going with a harmonic awareness of advanced jazz, and you feel not that the tradition is being broken, but rather that it being pushed forward.” [Jazz Is, New York: Limelight Editions, 1991, p. 106; full-text of the chapter printed below].

Notwithstanding their long-standing affection and respect for one another, in a way, it is not surprising that Mulligan should step in to Paul Desmond’s role because, like Paul, as a soloist, Gerry was a superior maker of melodies.

Or as Whitney Balliett more poetically expressed this skill:

“Mulligan is a fresh and convincing melodist. Writing a pure and ingratiating melody is like putting together a sentence that by virtue of its perfectly chosen and arranged parts, has grace, rhythm and meaning. A rare talent in any sort of composed music, it is woefully rare among modern jazz musicians.

As a melodist, Mulligan then became a perfect compliment to Brubeck’s percussive, sometimes bombastic, but always pulsating solos.

But in addition to complimenting one another, Mulligan and Brubeck also shared some common musical tendencies for according to Mr. Balliett:

“…Mulligan believes in counter lines and organ chords … and he also feels that humor … has a definite place in jazz, which he grants is a happy music.” [Both of these quotations are paraphrased from Mr. Balliett’s liner notes to the Pacific Jazz LP The Gerry Mulligan Quartet [PJ-1207].

Nat Hentoff, the eminent Jazz writer expands on the whole question of the qualities of mind, personality and character that made Mulligan such an extraordinary musician in the following chapter from Jazz Is entitled The White Mainstreamer. As always, use of such materials on JazzProfiles is © - Copyright protected; used with permission; all rights reserved.

“When the redoubtable Charles Mingus brought a large orchestra to New York's Philharmonic Hall one winter evening in the early 1970's, there was a rustle of excitement in the audience as the musicians walked onstage because one of the sidemen- unadvertised -had once been an extraordinarily popular leader of a jazz combo, a world-wide phenomenon.

"How the hell is Gerry Mulligan going to fit in with Mingus?" asked a young woman?

"Mulligan can fit in with just about anybody," her companion said. "You never know any more where or when he's going to turn up, but when he does he lights up the place."

Indeed, during that evening the angularly tall, bearded, relaxed, alert baritone saxophonist with red-gold hair not only played with wit, charm, and exuberance but also, when not soloing or involved in the ensemble, was manifestly enjoying the proceedings as a spectator at least as much as anyone in the audience. He grinned approvingly during others' solos, particularly those of Gene Ammons, and all in all did light up the place.

A few weeks later, appearing with Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond at Carnegie Hall, Mulligan-this time sharing the top billing-was just as persistently enlivening. As John S. Wilson observed in the New York Times, this "perennial guest . . . gave the evening its high point."
Through more than a quarter of a century, Mulligan's presence on the jazz scene has been singularly stimulating, and his history tells a great deal about certain key periods of jazz history-notably the "Birth of the Cool" gestalt of the late 1940's - as well as about what can be called the "white mainstreamer." There are other white mainstreamers - Zoot Sims and drummer Mel Lewis, among them - but Mulligan has a special ecumenical role in jazz history, a role all the more worth exploring in the 1970's when his significance tends to be overlooked.

In a way, Gerry Mulligan is the Huck Finn of jazz, sometimes exuberant, sometimes wistful, a perpetual wanderer.

In 1959, when Mulligan had become internationally renowned as the leader of a piano-less quartet, Dave Brubeck said, "When you listen to Gerry, you feel as if you were listening to the past, present, and future of jazz, all in one tune, and yet it's done with such taste and respect that you're not ever aware of a change in idiom. Mulligan gets the old New Orleans two-beat going with a harmonic awareness of advanced jazz, and you feel not that tradition is being broken, but rather that it's being pushed forward."

That encomium was largely true then; but, in the years since, "advanced jazz" has taken on much more far-reaching and turbulent characteristics, so that it can no longer accurately be said that Mulligan's work, by any means, encompasses the full scope of the music. What does remain true (and it is a considerable accomplishment) is Paul Desmond's analysis of Mulligan: "In probably no other jazz instrumentalist can you find such a clear progression from Dixieland through swing and into and out of bebop, all on the same record, if not in the same solo."

Or, as George Russell, an advanced jazz composer then and now, said in the late 1950's: "Mulligan is Mr. Mainstream."

Another musician much impressed by Mulligan was Coleman Hawkins, a man it was quite hard to impress. "Gerry," Hawkins told me some years ago with magisterial solemnity, "is full of the spirit."
What may well have particularly intrigued and pleased such older jazzmen as Coleman Hawkins and Rex Stewart was that Mulligan, as long as it was possible, directed his formidable spirit to the preservation of the jam session. For decades those informal, unpredictable, and often interminable meetings of jazz musicians-usually but not exclusively after hours-were not only a source of pleasure but also a testing ground. The jam session was a strenuous prep school for young jazzmen as well as an arena where the established postgraduates could keep themselves in musical condition to withstand the thrust of the continual lines of new challengers. Sometimes a venerable champion was toppled at one of these jousts, and the startling news spread swiftly through the jazz underground. Sessions, of course, were also places where ideas were shared. "Carving" and "cutting" were not always the hot order of business.

However, the hagiology of the jam session nearly always focused on the victors rather than the sharers. When I was thirteen or fourteen, for example, I used to listen to itinerant jazzmen of considerable proficiency but no special fame tell and retell bardic sagas of jazz wars. In those years the odyssey of Coleman Hawkins was most often recounted: how he had invented the jazz tenor in the twenties; how, at each stop on the road with Fletcher Henderson's band, he would be challenged by the leading local horn-slingers; and how, invariably, he would beat them by sheer fertility of imagination, blinding technique, robustness of tone, and all-around power. And how, one night in Kansas City, the swaggering Hawkins found waiting for him a pride of young tenor saxophonists, among them the still only regionally known Ben Webster, Herschel Evans, and Lester Young.

The tournament lasted through the night and into the middle of the afternoon of the next day. At its close, Hawkins had been defeated by Lester Young, who had prevailed even though his tone was lighter than Hawkins's and even though he preferred floating spareness to fiery technical virtuosity. Lester had triumphed because during that joust he had more to say, more that was fresh to say, more that was his own to say. Those jam sessions were no place for imitators, for hornmen whose next phrase or next chorus could be predicted. No sensible player competed-though many jumped in with no sense at all and were cut down-unless he felt he had come far enough along on his horn to be able to surprise the established gladiators. To be able to throw them off balance with a way of running changes, or phrasing, or playing with the beat-or all three-that made the reigning musicians suddenly fear that their ideas had gone stale, that these challengers somehow knew something they didn't know, something that had never been conceived before.

The very best of the established musicians survived their occasional defeats, accepting the notice that they had to woodshed more, practice more, dare more. And they, like Hawkins, would come back and reestablish, for a time anyway, their hegemony. Nearly always at these sessions, standing on the edge of the combat, would be the very young players, listening intently, trying to figure out when they ought to make their move, fantasizing the overwhelming victory. And at times those fantasies came swingingly true.

Hardly anyone would have predicted that this dramatic institution would ever fall into disuse, but starting in the 1950's most of the younger musicians, having separated themselves into tight, intensely rehearsed units, began to neglect the old joys and hazards of jamming. Meanwhile, as more of the jazz elders found it difficult to retain secure places in the jazz scene - because the newer audiences were focusing on "modern jazz" - they lost some of their own zest for jamming and, besides, the sessions were harder to find as fewer of their peers were working regularly.

Gerry Mulligan, however, had, by the late 1950's become the Johnny Appleseed of jam sessions, using any playing opportunity he could find to get a session going. At one of the Newport jazz Festival evenings, for instance, he was scheduled to play only once, but he ended up playing half a dozen times, onstage and later at jam sessions and parties, including one given by impressario Norman Granz, that produced the most spontaneous jazz of the Festival. On that occasion Mulligan was, as he often is, the first horn to play. As the earliest arrivals sized up the resources of the bar, the pianist Nat Pierce began noodling around and almost at once Mulligan, who had turned up wearing a red sweater and a red checked shirt, sat down near him and joined in softly. Soon other hornmen were playing, too, and Mulligan stood up and went into his characteristic rocking motion, his long back acting as a vibrantly tensile seesaw. In his devoted, rhythmic swaying Mulligan resembles an orthodox Jew at his prayers.

It was Mulligan, too, who presently organized the horns to back up the soloists with complementary figures. As had happened at many another jam session, Mulligan inexorably took over and in the course of the next few hours he demonstrated clearly that he had the strength to stand up with venerable volcanoes like Hawkins and Eldridge. The same sort of thing had occurred some months earlier, at a jam session that was staged after hours at Eddie Condon's club, then in Greenwich Village. Francoise Sagan was the guest of honor, and some Collier's photographers came, too, to catch her in the process of enjoying native American musique engage’. An observer, the magazine writer Richard Gehman, recalled, "It was an unlikely concoction. There were some of Eddie's Dixieland guys, including Wild Bill Davison on trumpet, and there was Zutty Singleton, the New Orleans drummer, and then, representing modern, there were Mulligan and his trombonist, Bob Brookmeyer. Before anyone knew quite what was happening, Mulligan was in charge. Even Wild Bill was following him."

Aside from the force of his personality, probably the chief reason Mulligan almost invariably becomes the director of any group, organized or casual, that he is playing with is that he doesn't have to waste time checking his bearings. He has a thorough knowledge and understanding of almost all the idioms in the language of jazz up to and including the Charlie Parker era but ending at the point of John Coltrane.

Jazz has been succinctly defined by its once-preeminent don, the late Marshall Stearns, as "a semi-improvisational American music distinguished by an immediacy of communication, an expressiveness characteristic of the free use of the human voice, and a complex flowing rhythm." Unlike the classical musicians of the time, with their "legitimate" tone and ("proper" fingering, the early horn players of New Orleans and other points of jazz orientation used their instruments very much in their own way, ignoring traditional restraints and incorporating the slurs, glissandi, and personal vibrato of speech. Most jazz combinations were small, and the emphasis was on improvisation - often multilinear collective improvisation. Pulsating beneath, through, and over everything else was the beat, polyrhythmic but inclined, at any rate in the rhythm sections, to be heavy and jagged.

Later on, in the twenties and thirties, emphasis on collective improvisation waned, and the soloists, with Louis Armstrong leading the way, dominated the jazz scene. Large bands emerged, which gave space to the improvising soloist but enclosed him in section work. Meanwhile, the rhythms of jazz were gradually smoothed as some bands, particularly Count Basie's, in the words of one critic, "put wheels on all four beats in the bar."

By the start of the forties, in the view of the restive young jazz musician, the whole situation had become firmly stabilized; nothing new seemed to be happening and there were stirrings of rebellion. Among the rebels were Charlie "Bird" Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. What they and others did was to widen the harmonic base for jazz improvisation more challengingly than ever before and to make the play of rhythms over the steady meter that is jazz more intricate and subtle than ever before. So challenging and intricate was their work that for a time it took a thoroughly oriented ear to appreciate, or even to follow, the involuted contours of the music's melodic content. The new music was given a variety of names, but the one that has survived most persistently is "modern jazz."

There was one feature of the older jazz that the insurgents did not dispense with-the tradition of the solo. The best of the influential modern Jazzmen were so intent on testing and developing their own voices in this new idiom that they preferred to function mainly as soloists whom other musicians played for, rather than with. Inevitably, a counterrevolution set in, and this was symbolized, and to a large extent touched off by, a series of recordings made by Miles Davis in 1949 and 1950 with an ensemble of nine instruments.

These records were comparable in their impact on a new generation of jazz musicians to the Louis Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven records of the 1920's, some of the Duke Ellington and Basie records of the thirties, and the records made by Parker and his associates in the early and middle forties. The counterrevolutionary aspect of the Davis discs was that they again put the stress on ensemble playing.
The soloist was still permitted to improvise, but he did so within a cohesive framework of relatively complex, freshly written ensemble material. The rhythmic and harmonic innovations of Parker, Gillespie, and the rest were retained by the new men, but they aimed for a lighter and more flowing rhythmic pulse than had emerged from the guerrilla warfare that had sometimes existed in the early modern-jazz rhythm sections, and a considerably more sensitive and varied dynamic range. Some of the leaping cry and slashing spontaneity of the beginnings of modern jazz were lost, but the records established a standard for coping once again with the problem-solved by the early New Orleans bands for their time, and by Ellington and Basie for theirs - of maintaining each player's individuality and at the same time emphasizing the organized expression of the group.

The Davis records were an arrangers' triumph, and one of the chief arrangers-and the baritone saxophonist - was Gerry Mulligan. In the following years, without in the slightest losing his interest in the jam session, he had continued to concentrate on organized expression. Beginning with a quartet in 1952, he has had a succession of small groups, each of them strongly integrated by means of arrangements and rehearsals but each permitting the soloists to improvise within an airy, if carefully built, structure.

At Newport, the night after Mulligan himself had roared through the free-style jam session at Norman Granz's party, at which soloing was all, or nearly all, one of his quartets - a particularly fine example, at the time, of a modern-jazz group that had chosen the collective approach as the path of its development - performed before an outdoor audience of twelve thousand. Mulligan and Bob Brookmeyer, playing the valve trombone, engaged in loosely contrapuntal conversations, with bass and drums providing the foundation. The colloquy usually began either with both voices stating a theme or with one lining out the melody while the other interpolated comments. As each then soloed, the other continued, but more softly, to contribute supporting, flowing melodic figures that were linked with warm logic to the foreground assertion.

The large, tawny, lunging voice of Mulligan's horn contrasted but did not clash with the more burnished, more gently burred singing of Brookmeyer's. Visually, Mulligan was the more commanding of the two. With the bulky baritone saxophone coming down to his knees, seemingly annealed to him, he rocked through each number, sometimes bending halfway over backward in his ardor, while Brookmeyer, also lean and long and slightly hunched over, stood with legs spread apart. The work of the quartet, individually and collectively, was subtle but strong, each voice remaining sensitive to the others not only in the spontaneous interplay of ideas but also in the constantly changing dynamics-from swelling waves of yea-saying to diminuendos so gently whispered that the bass became the loudest voice. The playing was organized with such clarity that all four instruments could be continually followed, and with such balance that, although there had been plenty of opportunity for each horn to release his own feelings, at the close of a number there were no loose ends.

Gerry Mulligan was born on April 6, 1927, in Queens Village, Long Island, the youngest of four brothers. He is three-quarters Irish and a quarter German, and this has led John Lewis, who feels that there have been too few musicians of Irish descent among the major jazz figures, to welcome him into that category with special warmth. Racial references of any kind, however, greatly annoy Mulligan. Some years ago, shortly after an earnest jazz-magazine editor had suggested that most of the best jazz musicians have been blacks, Jews, and Italians, in that order, Mulligan ran into him in a night club and told him fiercely, "The really impressive thing about jazz, and the important musicians like Bird and Miles and me, is that it and we are so individualistic." Mulligan went on to warn the editor not to bring "everything down to some kind of common denominator."

Mulligan grew up in what he feels was a narrow, conventional, and authoritarian Irish Catholic home. He had a driving interest in music before he entered kindergarten, and in the course of a highly peripatetic childhood (his father, a management engineer, was obliged to move about the East Coast and the Middle West) he learned, with almost no formal help, to play the clarinet and various saxophones, as well as to arrange and compose. (Later he also picked up piano, trumpet, and flugelhorn.)

Breaking away from his family in 1944, at the age of seventeen, Mulligan left high school in Philadelphia to take a brief traveling job as an arranger with the Tommy Tucker band. He then had a series of jobs as an arranger or a saxophonist, or both, with various small and large bands, including Claude Thornhill's and Gene Krupa's. However, being sharp-tongued, willful, and intolerant of bad playing, Mulligan had one calamitous run-in after another with his employers.

On one such occasion, while Mulligan was with Gene Krupa, the band had been working and traveling frenetically, and its playing in Mulligan's opinion had become shoddy. One night, at the end of a set, Mulligan rose and, in plain hearing of the audience, upbraided the band in general and then Krupa in particular for his inability or unwillingness to set higher standards. "I told them all to go to hell," Mulligan recalls. At a meeting of the band next day, Krupa lit into the band first, and then into Mulligan for inexcusable behavior in public. Krupa proceeded to fire Mulligan, but he did not hold a grudge against his former employee. "I had to admire that guy," Krupa said a few years later. "You get too much obsequiousness in this business. There was no obsequiousness in him, which I dug."

Meanwhile, along with his lack of obsequiousness, Mulligan was moving ahead rapidly as a musician, mastering the old and new idioms of jazz, and in 1947 - in a move that turned out to be vital to his own development and enabled him to become a significant part of jazz history-Mulligan settled down for a time in New York, joining a group of similarly explorative instrumentalists and arrangers in the experiments that led to the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool jazz recordings.
In the mid-1940's there were not many places in the United States where modern jazzmen like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie could find any sort of encouragement: some night clubs on Fifty-second Street and in Harlem, and a few scattered pockets of rebellion in the black sections of other Eastern cities. The rest of the country, in the modern jazzman's view, was a vast, square desert. Not long after an engagement in California, for example, Parker had fled to New York

"Nobody understands our kind of music out on the Coast," he told the critic Leonard Feather, "They hated it, Leonard. I can't tell you how I yearned for New York. . . . As I left the Coast, they had a band at Billy Berg's with somebody playing a bass sax and a drummer playing on the temple blocks and ching ching-ching cymbals ... and the people liked it! That was the kind of thing that helped to crack my wig." Even New York was far from perfect, offering little steady work, but it did promise companionship. A musician who was unable to make much of an impression on the outside world could at least tell his story to an audience of his peers, and there were marathon jam sessions, sometimes lasting two or three days, in any apartment that happened to be available, or in a hall when the jazzmen could scrape together the money to hire one. "There was a spirit then," the pianist George Wallington recalls. "We were engrossed in what we were finding out, and we were inspired by each other. Everybody just loved to play. Most of the time we didn't sleep. We'd fall out for an hour or so and go back to playing. It's nothing like that today. Everybody's going out on his own, trying to make a success."

And so it was that Mulligan was drawn to settle in New York. He supported himself largely by writing arrangements for Claude Thornhill's big band and, as he says, he "aced" himself into any jam session he could find. At the sessions there were heads of court who decided whether a newcomer would be admitted or barred, and Mulligan passed all crucial inspections. As an arranger, too, he was making substantial progress, partly because he renewed what had been a slight acquaintance with Gil Evans, the head arranger of the Thornhill band. Evans, then about thirty-five and a stubborn, self-taught pragmatist, had evolved an intricate, richly tapestried personal style, and this had an important influence on Mulligan, among other young musicians.

In 1947 Evans was living in a one-room basement apartment on West 55th Street, behind a Chinese laundry, and that room became the birthplace of at least one major development in modern jazz. Arrangers and instrumentalists went there to play records and talk, and some of the discussions are now regarded as historic. The room and something of what it meant to Mulligan and the others have been described the composer George Russell: "A very big bed took up a lot of the place; there was one big lamp, and a cat named Becky - The linoleum was battered, and there was a little court outside. Inside, it was always very dark. The feeling of the room was timelessness. Whenever you went there, you wouldn't care about conditions outside. You couldn't tell whether it was day or night, summer or winter, and it didn't matter. At all hours, the place was loaded with people who came in and out. Mulligan, though, was there all the time. He was very clever, witty, and saucy, the way he is now. I remember his talking about a musician who was getting a lot of attention by copying another. 'A Sammy Kaye is bad enough,' Gerry said. 'A bastard Sammy Kaye is too much.' Gerry had a chip on his shoulder.

He had more or less the same difficulties that made us all bitter and hostile. He was immensely talented, and he didn't have enough of an opportunity to exercise his talent. Gil's influence had a softening effect on him and on all of us. Gil, who loved musical companionship, was the mother hen-the haven in the storm. He was gentle, wise, profound, and extremely perceptive, and he always seemed to have a comforting answer for any kind of problem. He appeared to have no bitterness. As for Gil's musical influence on Gerry, I think that Gerry, with his talent, would have emerged as a major force in jazz anyway. His talent would have surmounted his lack of formal education. But Gil helped. Gil was, and is, one of the strong personalities in written jazz, and I'm sure he influenced all of us. Gerry, however, was better able than any of the rest of us to channel Gil's influences-including the modern classical writers, whose records Gil played-into mainstream jazz.
Gerry was always interested in the way each of us felt about music, but he was impatient with anything that moved too far away from the mainstream."

Out of the turbulence in the Evans apartment grew some extraordinary projects. Evans himself was strongly stimulated by Alban Berg, among other classical composers, and several times he and his friends, each carrying a score, trooped uptown to the Juilliard School of Music to attend rehearsals of Berg compositions. And-what was of far more moment from a jazz point of view-the discussions in the apartment eventually led to the Miles Davis Capitol recordings of 1949-50, which launched what was known throughout the world for years afterward as "cool" jazz. These records stemmed in part from the experience that Evans and Mulligan had had in writing for the Thornhill band, which made use of a wider and more varied range of instrumental colors-French horns and a tuba among them-than any other jazz orchestra of the time. The records also stemmed in part from the daring conceptions of players like Parker, Monk, Gillespie, and the pianist Bud Powell-frontiersmen who had done a good deal of work in small ensembles that relied on improvisation and whose playing was aggressive, challenging, hot, frequently hard, and at tempos that were inclined to be unnerving.

Now Mulligan and Evans felt that they could retain the searching spirit of the frontiersmen but make the music more subtle, more variously colored, and better organized. Discussions began in the apartment about the smallest number of instruments that could express the harmonic range achieved by the Thornhill band. Evans and Mulligan, recruiting other arrangers and instrumentalists as they went along-among them Miles Davis-proceeded to work out the problems involved. 

Eventually, they decided that the instrumentation should consist of trumpet, trombone, French horn, tuba, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, piano, bass, and drums. Next the players were recruited, and Davis, whose organizational abilities were vital to the whole project, was installed as the leader. Late in the summer of 1948, after some weeks of rehearsals in hired halls, the new ensemble opened a three-week engagement at the Royal Roost, at Broadway and Forty-seventh Street. Davis insisted that a sign be placed in front of the club reading, "Arrangements by Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans, and John Lewis" - the first time that any experimental arrangers in jazz, except for Duke Ellington, had ever received billboard credit. At that time the Royal Roost was probably the only night club in the country that would have taken a chance with this new and forbidding type of jazz, and even it failed to extend the Davis group's stay after the first three weeks. The Davis outfit never again appeared in public as a unit, but a few months after the engagement at the Royal Roost the players reassembled at the studios of Capitol Records to make the first of what turned out to be a series of single records that almost immediately intrigued young jazz musicians throughout the country, although most of the critics took longer to catch up, as usual.

In addition to giving currency to a lighter, more flowing beat and a more diversified and subtle dynamic range than had been characteristic of the earlier, more fiery modern Jazz, these sessions, in reemphasizing the importance of collective interplay, had an influence which in quite diversified ways has lasted into the 1970's. The music's least fruitful influence was on the largely arid, mechanical, almost entirely white "West Coast jazz" of the 1950's (an exception, in terms of musical value, being Mulligan's own quartets of that period). What the West Coast players did not comprehend was that beneath the surface "cool" of the Miles Davis sessions was a great deal of concentrated intensity. At its disciplined core this too was "hot jazz."

By the late 1950's, in direct, angry reaction to the sterile "West Coast jazz" and to the considerable income those white players were receiving from their bowdlerization of authentic jazz, black players in the East began to emphasize "funk," or "soul jazz," a counterthrust most strongly represented by the blues-and-gospel-rooted shouts of combos led by Horace Silver and Art Blakey.

As "soul jazz" took hold and was followed in the 1960's and 1970's by the much more complex but nonetheless aggressively emotional music of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, et al., it appeared in retrospect as if all aspects of "cool jazz" had been transient divagations, the merest footnotes, in jazz history. Actually, this was true of white "West Coast jazz," but not of the Miles Davis Capitol recordings, both with regard to the staying power of that particular music itself, and also in terms of its long-range impact.

Miles Davis, for instance, though he grew much beyond those recordings in subsequent years, was strongly influenced by that search for unprecedentedly variegated combinations of instruments in a small group, by the keen attention to dynamics, and by the need for each player to continually add to the linear and textural designs with more than just accompaniment. So too was the future of John Lewis's (and the Modern Jazz Quartet's) music shaped in part by those sessions. In fact, no one deeply involved-from Max Roach to Lee Konitz-was the same again musically; and each of them in different ways went on to carry what was learned from this experience to other musicians with whom they worked. At its core that experience was a return to-and an expansion of-the concept of jazz as collective improvisation. Solos were vital, but in a rich, resonant configuration.

After New York, Mulligan went on to California, wrestled hard and eventually successfully with a heroin habit he had brought west with him, and started the series of softly swinging, contrapuntally improvising quartets which made his international reputation. During those quartet years Mulligan made another significant contribution to jazz-one that is going to return, I expect, with different textures and newer designs. And that is the natural development of contrapuntal swinging. Dave Brubeck had also worked this vein, and while his alto saxophonist Paul Desmond was exceptionally skilled and imaginative in this kind of improvisation, Brubeck too often was plodding. It was Mulligan who made the breakthrough.

As Gunther Schuller noted, when Mulligan's pianoless quartet was a pervasive phenomenon on the jazz scene, "Gerry brought back the contrapuntal way of playing jazz into naked clarity. He has taken away the harmonic background of the piano, which usually veiled multilinear writing for horns in jazz, and he hasn't fallen into the obvious snare of writing classic fugues-of using the classical forms of counterpoint as a basis for his originals and arrangements. His is simply clear linear writing in jazz terms; he has shown that contrapuntal designs can swing. Previous attempts in modern jazz to emphasize polyphonic writing and playing had bogged down, because of the self-conscious stiffness of the players. Where others went out of the jazz field to take forms from classical music and then returned to try to put them into jazz, he has eliminated that step, and thereby eliminated stiffness in multilinear jazz playing. He has also brought humor back into modern jazz. jazz, which had been so happy a music in the thirties, had become quite serious, and even at times sickly, during the development of the modern idioms. Mulligan has brought back a happy, relaxed feeling, because he is able to relax completely while playing. Sometimes he relaxes too much. But it is this ability to relax that permits him to play with all kinds of groups, in almost any jazz context, and that makes him the big catalyst that he is."

To which Martin Williams added: "The Mulligan groups play together, listen to each other, work as a group. . . . Also they get a complexity and density of texture out of their instruments."

There was another kind of impetus Mulligan gave to jazz in the late 1950's and early 1960's and may well-since he is so resilient-contribute again. "Gerry," says Bob Brookmeyer, "has a positive life attitude, in contrast to the suicidal perspective - the Charlie Parker complex -that was prevalent among many post-World War II musicians. Parker was so impressive musically and personally that he set some standards he hadn't meant to. Gerry came as a life-giving current of air to young musicians who had been stifled emotionally and intellectually by the idea of death. And in his music he proved that a whisper at times can be more effective and piercing than a shout."

In the 1960's Mulligan also proved his extraordinary capacities as a big-band leader. His orchestra was supple, resourceful, the soloists an integral, organic part of the arrangements. The band had drive, wit, lyricism, ingenuity-like its leader. But the economics of the jazz scene made it impossible for Mulligan to maintain the band. And so he has continued playing both as incandescent guest and increasingly again as leader. Meanwhile, as more of the older jazz players disappear, Mulligan remains a particularly important and attractive figure in jazz history for the affection and respect he has shown jazz elders during long years when few other younger players did.

One of the remarkable things about the remarkable form of expression known as jazz, which in the past seventy-five years has become familiar in the remotest regions of the globe, is that its collective history has been made by thousands of fiercely individualistic players. This history has consequently been a full one, marked by skirmish after skirmish on constantly shifting terrain, yet because it has been so brief, we still have in our midst survivors of every one of the campaigns. The eldest of these veterans, who started out working by day as longshoremen, cigar makers, and the like, and playing jazz by night-as much for pleasure as for money-are seldom heard from nowadays, however, except at such invaluable refuges as Preservation Hall in New Orleans. And the succeeding generation-professionals from the start, more sophisticated and more resourceful but no less fiery-have had hard going in recent decades. In the 1930's most of the best of them played in large jazz bands of a sort that has almost ceased to exist, and some of their triumphs are recorded in those hagiological listings called discographies.

Quite a few of these musicians were sweepingly proficient soloists, able to express through improvisation a range of ideas and emotions that made many a music student eye his textbook and teacher with skepticism, and in general they showed that an organization of perhaps fifteen men could swing with a drive exhilarating to players and listeners alike.

In the course of time, though, these musicians gave way to the first phalanx of what are known as "modern jazzmen" -somewhat more self-conscious musicians who worked at expanding or renewing the harmonic and rhythmic language of jazz, and in doing so tended for a time to drop melody into third place. Inevitably, the Jacobins-men like Parker, Gillespie, and Bud Powell - were themselves followed by a generation with even newer ideas. This second phalanx of modern jazzmen, while admiring the sometimes craggy advances of their immediate predecessors and doing their best to consolidate them, felt that it was possible, and agreeable as well, to concentrate on melodic lyricism again, and some of them are still profitably working along that line, though they too have been increasingly challenged by newer, more clangorously venturesome forces.

All these groups, and others, coexist, though their fortunes vary. It is as if Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Debussy, and Webern were alive at the same time. Many young jazz musicians, however, derive no satisfaction from this extraordinary state of affairs; far from honoring their elders, some of the young in jazz know little about them and care less.
How little they cared was evident one Saturday evening in the summer in 1959 in a large tent at the Timber Grove Club, on Great South Bay, Long Island, when, in the course of a jazz festival, a group of aging musicians met to put on a special kind of revival meeting. The musical director of the festival was Rex Stewart, then middle-aged and performing with Eddie Condon's outfit. He had reassembled as many members of the Fletcher Henderson unit of the 1920's-one of the world's first large jazz bands-as he could, filling the remaining positions with jazzmen of the same era, or a slightly later one. The musicians looked forward to playing together again, especially since the world of jazz had been treating them badly; as a rule, night-club owners, bookers, and record company executives felt that there was no public for jazz musicians in their forties and fifties, and some members of the reconstituted band were reduced to routine day jobs that had nothing to do with music. Others had jobs with minor rhythm-and-blues bands. A very few-like Coleman Hawkins-had done better, but even they had remained in jazz under less than optimum conditions, artistic or financial.

If a reunion of a great classical group-the Thibaud-Cortot-Casals trio, say-had ever been held at Great South Bay, or anywhere else, young classical musicians would have arrived in swarms. For the Great South Bay Festival, which brought together such eminent jazz musicians as Hawkins, the trombonist J. C. Higginbotham, and the alto saxophonist Hilton Jefferson for the first time in years, only one prominent young jazzman made the two-hour trip out from New York-Gerry Mulligan. Then thirty, Mulligan had already played a decisive part in one of the most recent waves of jazz reform-the wave that had led to a reemphasis on melody and, with it, multilinear collective improvisation. 

Yet even though he was in the forefront of the innovators at that time, he had continued to listen to and to learn from the older traditionalists. Modern jazz in his view was not a revolution against an ancien regime that would be better off buried. He saw it as a natural evolution of the old jazz language, and he had great respect for his musical ancestors.

That Saturday morning Mulligan left his midtown New York apartment and drove out to Great South Bay. He went to listen, but, since he always hopes to find a jam session, he took his saxophone along. When he arrived at the tent a loosely swinging band, led jointly by bassist Bob Haggart and trumpeter Yank Lawson, was performing in a style that might be called swing-era Dixieland. For a moment Mulligan stood listening, and then was visited by a compulsion to play. He picked up his horn and moved up to the bandstand, to the evident satisfaction of the other players. This was the first time Mulligan had ever played with either Lawson or Haggart, but he sounded as if he had rehearsed with their unit for weeks. Meanwhile, Rex Stewart was basking on the beach, resting up for the Fletcher Henderson revival meeting in the evening. Somehow, word reached him that Mulligan had come and was playing, and Stewart, who felt for Mulligan a wholeness of devotion that he extended to few other young jazzmen, hurriedly changed his clothes, ran for his horn, and moved onto the stand. He and Mulligan had never played together, and this was an experience Stewart had been looking forward to for months. The instantaneous, hot rapport between the pair fired all the musicians on the stand into a booting ensemble rideout.

That evening, during the Henderson reunion, there was an extra baritone saxophone in the band. Mulligan had bought a ticket and had filed into the big tent with the rest of the customers. Then he had slipped into the shadows alongside the bandstand, and when the concert of the patriarchs got under way he began playing softly. At a wave from Rex Stewart, Mulligan moved onto the stand, took up a position between Hawkins and J. C. Higginbotham, and played a strong solo. The old-timers seemed pleased to have him there and he was pleased to be there. The last the audience saw of Mulligan, much later that night, he was walking out of the tent into the darkness, still playing.

Around the time of that transgenerational evening at the Great South Bay jazz Festival, Gerry Mulligan, in an article he had written for Down Beat, described a project that had long appealed to him: "I think it would be a good idea to organize a unit composed of some of the older jazzmen and those of the younger musicians who can do it. . . . But first I'd want the group to work out for some time. Then if something of musical value results, we could record it. But I don't like the idea of doing something just to record it. It has to work first."

Except for a few age-mixed bands in New Orleans through the years (usually a fusion of perpetual jazz students from Europe with the native musical aristocracy), there has yet to be a project of the order envisioned by Mulligan. Jazz remains more segregated by age than by any other factor, and that is a great pity and a great loss-to listeners and musicians alike. Nonetheless, the achievement of trans generational maturity among younger musicians is not beyond possibility-, and should such an orchestra finally appear, spanning the decades of jazz, Mulligan is still one of its most likely and logical leaders.

Together with his insistence on paying attention to the whole jazz tradition, Mulligan is also one of the prototypical jazz romantics. He describes, for instance, a small event with large consequences which took place in a small Ohio town when he was in the third grade there. And this brief tale also reflects the boyhood dreams of just about everyone, in any country, who later jumped into the jazz life.
"I was on my way to school," Mulligan recalls, "when I saw the Red Nichols bus sitting in front of a hotel. That moment was probably when I first wanted to become a band musician and go on the road. It was a small old Greyhound bus with a canopied observation platform, and on the bus was printed, 'RED NICHOLS AND HIS FIVE PENNIES.' It all symbolized travel and adventure. I was never the same after that."”

To be continued in Part 4 with Gene Lees.