Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Mulligan

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved

“And Gerry Mulligan lived through almost the entire history of jazz. It is against that background that he should be understood.”

- Gene Lees 

The title of this feature involves somewhat of a play on words.

I’ve always found the career of composer-arranger and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan amazing both in terms of it scope and its content. Everything he did in Jazz in whatever the setting was done to the highest musical standards. His artistry was sheer genius.

But what is even more amazing to me is that with the exception of Jerome Klinkowitz's Listen-Gerry Mulligan: An Aural Narrative [Schirmer Books, 1991] which is written primarily from the author's take on Gerry's recordings, I know of no definitive, book length treatment on the subject of Gerry and his music, this despite the fact Jazz studies programs, institutes, and repositories dot the landscape of colleges and universities throughout the country and, increasingly, the world.

How sad.

More Mulligan, indeed.

In an effort to redress this tragic omission, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has cobbled together its previous blog postings on Gerry and collected them into this feature so that they may be easier to locate in the archives should someone with more energy and discipline be interested in using them to write a comprehensive biography on Gerry Mulligan.

While by means an exhaustive “research of the literature,” what follows does contain writings about Gerry and his music by such distinguished Jazz authors as Bill Crow, Nat Hentoff, Gene Lees, Gordon Jack, Doug Ramsey, Ted Gioia, Bill Kirchner, Ira Gitler, Bob Gordon, Gunther Schuller, Burt Korall, George T. Simon, Michael Cuscuna, Gary Giddins, Fred M. Hall, Whitney Balliett, Martin Williams, Jeff Sultanof and Charles Fox [BBC].

This is for you, Jeru, until something better comes along.

“In his short story, Entropy, the novelist Thomas Pynchon takes Mulligan’s early-1950’s piano-less quartets with Chet Baker as a crux of post modernism, improvisation without the safety net of predictable chords.
The revisionist argument was that Mulligan attempted the experiment simply because he had to work in a club with no piano.
The true version is that there was a piano, albeit an inadequate one, but he was already experimenting with a much more arranged sound for small groups (to which the baritone saxophone was particularly adaptable) and the absence of a decent keyboard was merely an additional spur. …
Mulligan’s piano-less quartet is one of the epochal jazz groups, even if it had no such aspirations, formed for nothing more than a regular gig at The Haig….
In retrospect, it’s the simplest pleasures which have made the music endure: the uncomplicated swing of the various rhythm sections, the piquant contrast of amiably gruff baritone saxophone and shyly melodious trumpet ….
Cool but hot, slick but never too clever, these are some of the most pleasurable records of their time.”
Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD [6th Ed.: p. 1082; paragraphing modified].

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

In order to assist with our expanded portrayal of one of the Giants of Jazz, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has secured copyright permission from authors Bill Crow, Nat Hentoff,  Gene Lees and Gordon Jack to use chapters about Gerry from their books. These will appear in subsequent sections of this piece on Gerry.

I liked Gerry Mulligan’s music from the first time I heard it. It made me feel content then and it still makes me feel content now whenever I play any of his records.

Mulligan’s music makes me feel happy, joyous and free, whatever the musical context, be it the arrangements he wrote for the Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill, and Elliot Lawrence big bands; his involvement with Gil Evans in the Birth of the Cool sessions issued under Miles Davis’ name in the late 1940’s; his early 1950’s piano-less quartet with Chet Baker; the Kenton arrangements such as Youngblood, Swing House and Walking Shoes around the same time; the sextet he formed in the mid-1950s with Jon Eardley [tp], Bob Brookmeyer [vtb] and Zoot Sims [ts]; the re-formed quartets first with Bob Brookmeyer and later with Art Farmer [tp]; the marvelous and all-too-short-lived early 1960s version of the Concert Jazz Band; his association with Dave Brubeck’s Quartet after the latter’s classic quartet with Paul Desmond disbanded in 1967; the 1974 Carnegie Hall reunion with Chet Baker; the re-constituted editions of the Concert Jazz Band in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s; his quartet during the later years of his life which included either Bill Charlap or Ted Rosenthal [p], Dean Johnson [b] and Ron Vincent [d].

And lest we forget, there are the many “Gerry Mulligan Plays with …” albums that this peripatetic baritone saxophonist made with the likes of Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Lee Konitz , Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster.

Nat Hentoff fondly refers to Gerry as the “Huck Finn” or the “Johnny Appleseed” of Jazz and Doug Ramsey also portrays Gerry’s wandering minstrel tendency in a most praiseworthy fashion when he explains:

“Some musicians, once they move past their salad days and establish careers as identifiable stylists, rarely leave the confines of their own groups or, if they do, seldom mingle in performances with players outside their own styles or eras. There are many sensible, even laudatory, reasons for such isolation. Some are purely artistic. Some are commercial. Others have to do with preservation of image, which is usually another manifestation of salability. Still others concern sheer preservation of physical and psychic energy.

But there have always been in jazz a few artists at the pinnacle of their profession, admired by their peers, flexible in outlook, quickly adaptable to a variety of circumstances, who love to play in virtually any musical setting of quality … [and] among major jazz artists, it may be that no one has sat in more often with bands playing a greater range of styles than has Gerry Mulligan.

Mulligan, master baritone saxophonist, small group innovator, one of the premier arrangers, is at home in every jazz idiom with the possible exception of the most outré elements of avant-garde.” [Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers, Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1989, p. 229].

Given the magnitude of the footprint that he left upon the music, it is almost as impossible to assess Gerry Mulligan’s role in the development of modern Jazz in the second half of the Twentieth Century as it is to underestimate it.

The following excerpt by Ted Gioia from his Cool Jazz and West Coast Jazz in The Oxford Companion to Jazz as edited by Bill Kirchner [New York, Oxford University Press, 2000] might serve as one starting point for Gerry contributions to Jazz’s evolution during this period:

“Gerry Mulligan’s stint in California in the early 1950s proved decisive for the emerging West Coast sound. Modern jazz in Los Angeles in the late 1940s was as hot as the asphalt under which the city was then being covered. It took as its primary model the bebop styles of the East Coast.

Mulligan’s L.A. quartet [with trumpeter Chet Baker] changed all of that, questioning the conventional wisdom about jazz music’s rhythmic essence, its melodic impulses, its approach to composition, even its assumptions about instrumentation.

Mulligan’s finely etched baritone sax lines entered into a ruminative counterpoint dialogue with Baker’s trumpet phrases. … Never before had the softer extremes of the dynamic spectrum been so finely explored by a jazz band …. [Accompanied by only bass and drums] no piano or guitar cluttered the pristine harmonic textures of the band, and this imparted even great clarity to the interlocking horn lines. [paragraphing modified: p. 336].

And yet, Mulligan seems to have disavowed the importance of his time on the West Coast claiming later in his career:

My bands would have been successful anywhere. [Mulligan, a native New Yorker, went on to assert] I didn’t live in California. I went to California, scuffled around for a while, wrote some charts for Stan Kenton to survive, and started my group – I had very little contact with anything going on out there – and then left.” [Bob Rusch, Gerry Mulligan Interview, Cadence, October 1977, p. 7, as quoted in Gioia, West Coast Jazz, p. 175].

As this excerpt from Ira Gitler’s Swing to Bop demonstrates, Gerry’s criticism of his time on the West Coast involving Stan Kenton was particularly vitriolic:

… part of the thing that really depressed me and I always hated being called West Coast jazz because to me the influences out of the West Coast in jazz were personified by Stan Kenton's band. And Stan's band to me was some kind of way symbolic of the end of the bands as I loved them. It had gotten too big and too pompous. You know, it took itself so seriously. Like just something terribly Wagnerian about it all.
Well, I once said, thinking I was being humorous, that Stan is the "Wagner of jazz" and then realized afterwards-because he had done a thing with the transcriptions of the Wagner pieces, and tried to conduct them-that he really saw himself that way and didn't see any humor in it at all. But I hated what that band stood for because it was like the final evolution of wrongly taken points. The way the band kept growing.

And the absolute maximum for any kind of use was the five saxes and the three or four bones and the four trumpets. The main reason . . . there's one you can do with four trumpets you can't do any other way, and that's four-part harmony, which only four trumpets together sound . . . OK. The only function for the fifth trumpet is an alternate player. But Stan's band kept getting bigger and bigger - to five trombones. Now five trombones is the most asinine.” [Swing to Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940’s, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 247].

But as Bob Gordon points out in his effort at an even-handed assessment of Gerry’s tenure on the West Coast, while it may have been brief, it also brought him his initial fame and helped to give a wider public recognition to many southern California musicians and their music:

“When Gerry Mulligan returned to New York at the close of 1954, …, the catchphrase West Coast Jazz was being bandied about in the Jazz press and, much to his irritation, Gerry’s name was often linked to the music. Gerry was quite right in rejecting this linkage; his quartet was sui generis and belonged to no school save that of Mulligan himself. At the same time, though, the national popularity of the quartet did much to draw attention to Jazz in southern California and helped smooth the way for other musicians who were trying to be heard. …, Pacific Jazz [Records] owed its very existence to the Mulligan quartet, and that label and other independent companies that sprang up in its wake were largely responsible for launching the careers of many southland musicians who had been anonymous before Gerry arrived. Gerry Mulligan’s help may have been inadvertent, but it was indispensable nevertheless." [Jazz West Coast, London: Quartet Books, 1986, p. 85].

Before Gerry’s time on the West Coast, there were four, distinctive associations during the formative years of his career: [1] his time with drummer Gene Krupa’s post World War II orchestra; [2] his work with the Claude Thornhill orchestra beginning in 1947 which led to his meeting the arranger composer Gil Evans, [3] his work as a composer-arranger for the Philadelphia-based Elliot Lawrence band that began in 1949 and continued into the mid-1950s; [4] also in 1949, the landmark Birth of the Cool sessions issued under trumpeter Miles Davis’ name.

As Gunther Schuller points out:

“[In addition to Eddie Finckel], “… George Williams, and Gerry Mulligan, were even more instrumental in bringing the Krupa band into the modern era….

[And yet], Krupa did not record Gerry Mulligan’s early work (1946-47) until a dozen years later with a star-studded specially assembled band for Norman Granz’s Verve label. Krupa may simply have considered Mulligan’s [early] work too risky commercially – he did take a chance on two of his more “conservative” scores, Disc Jockey Jump (1947) and How High the Moon (1946) – notwithstanding his genuine commitment to the newer jazz styles, which he staunchly maintained into the early 1950s and beyond that. Indeed by 1949, the year the bop movement finally achieved wider public recognition, Krupa’s orchestra had developed into a full-fledged modern ensemble.” [The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945, New YorkOxford University Press, 1989, p. 727].

Gerry’s contributions to Gene Krupa’s big band are richly detailed in the following un-attributed insert notes to the Verve CD – Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements, as well as, those that follow which Pete Clayton wrote for the initial LP release of this music for the World Record Club[TP 351]:

“Gerry Mulligan joined the Gene Krupa band in February, 1946, and remained about a year. He arranged for the band all that time, played alto for a couple of months and tenor for about two more. The arrangements he did during that year - when he was 19 - are both interesting in themselves and illuminating in the context of the way his writing has developed since. He did about 24 altogether.

At the age of 17, Mulligan had already started arranging professionally - for Johnny Warrington's band at the Philadelphia radio station, WCAU; for Tommy Tucker on Gerry's first road trip; and then for Elliot Lawrence, who had taken over the WCAU orchestra.

"The Krupa band, however," Mulligan recalls, "was the most professional band I'd ever written for. They were so professional they sometimes scared the hell out of me. They had no trouble playing anything I wrote. Having that skilled a unit to write for was a new and a challenging experience."

Before he heard these versions of the arrangements he'd done for Krupa, Mulligan had feared that twelve years would make them sound much too dated for comfort, but he was hearteningly surprised to hear that they still stand up. "There were a lot of things," he said, "I thought I hadn't tried until I started writing for Claude Thornhill, but now I hear that I'd already been doing them with Gene's band."

In these arrangements can be heard Mulligan's characteristic concern for linear clarity and his overall functional approach to writing. In the years after, Mulligan - through his arranging for big bands and his own quartet - did a great deal to let more air into contemporary jazz scoring. He did not allow himself to be impressed with sound effects - however massed and screaming - for their own sake, but preferred instead to make a large band flow and swing lightly but firmly with plenty of space for the men, in sections as well as in solo, to breathe.
In some places here, you may be reminded of elements of the Jimmie Lunceford book, not only the rhythmic feel at times, but also the humor. Wit, sometimes sardonic, is another characteristic of Mulligan and it also was one of the invigorating assets of the Lunceford band.

"Actually," Mulligan explains, "guys at that time asked me if I'd heard Lunceford, and I hadn't. But I had heard several of the white bands who had been influenced by Lunceford."

Bird House is thus called because it's based on several Charlie Parker ideas, but it's also not unconnected with Neal Hefti's The Good Earth for inspiration. Gerry had left Mulligan Stew untitled, and the title it finally received made him vow that would be the last time he wouldn't title a song of his himself. Gerry wrote The Way of All Flesh after reading the novel, but doesn't think there are any correspondences between Samuel Butler's plot and the score.

Disc Jockey Jump, which turned out to be a Krupa hit, was written by Mulligan in the early months of his association with the band, but it wasn't put into the books until Gerry had left. Mulligan's only retrospective comment on the number is, "It came before Four Brothers."

Mulligan feels he learned a great deal from his year with Krupa, not only about writing and playing, but about people. The band traveled throughout the country, and the experience broadened Gerry considerably. He was also fond of Gene personally, and appreciated the fact that Gene let him write as much as he did and used most of it. Krupa, in turn, liked Mulligan because he always stood up for what he believed, and knew what he wanted to do.

Adding this album to your Mulligan-Krupa collection should prove to be an instructive pleasure. It gives - in high fidelity - a cross-section of an important year in Mulligan's history; and it also indicates that Krupa had the prescience to keep the 19-year-old with the band, and - up to a point - give him his head.

World Club Record" TP 351
Those who saw much of Gerry Mulligan during his 1963 visit to Britain found him looking robust, substantial and outrageously English as he loped affably about London smoking his pipe. And anyone who could, almost automatically contrasted this new Mulligan with the skeletally thin figure, with his sandy hair pruned down to little more than a ginger lawn, whose shortness of temper and air of almost perpetual irritability had made him such a prickly individual during his previous visit six years earlier. But if, in the matter of mere physical appearance and disposition, he has altered somewhat over the years, musically there is a consistency about him that runs right through his career; and this record, although made in 1958, takes us almost as far back as we can go in Mulligan's work in jazz. Nowadays a constant pollwinner on baritone sax, he made his first big impression as an arranger, and we have here twelve of the two dozen arrangements he did for Gene Krupa's band, of which he was a member, during 1946. He was then only nineteen.

Already he was thinking in terms of that articulate airiness that he later brought to exquisite perfection in the Quartet. At that early age he could have been excused had he succumbed to the temptation to wallow in the opulent sounds possible with a big band. But he didn't. That ambling boneyness, which is his by physique, had already got into his writing. You will notice that apart from Disc jockey jump, which was one of the Krupa band's big successes at the time, the tempos are nearly all relaxed, almost casual. And If you were the only girl in the world not only demonstrates his ability to sustain interest at a really slow tempo, but points also to his flair for working wonders with what appears at first sight to be unlikely material. The tune had been written right back in 1916 by Nat Ayer for a famous London musical show, "The Bing Boys are Here', and although a good strong one, it had always seemed to me to have rather an excess of that maudlin quality that goes down so well in pubs. But if there has to be a highspot on the record, for me it is this number.

Mulligan's own Bird house and Birds of a feather, and Yardbird suite by Parker himself, are Gerry's ample tribute to Charlie Parker. How high the moon, a number written by Morgan Lewis and Nancy Hamilton in 1940, had an uncanny fascination for the early modernists, who made it their own much as the jam sessioneers had once appropriated Honeysuckle rose and the revivalists were to latch onto The Saints. Margie by Con Conrad and J. Russell Robinson. is a standard dating from 1920. Mulligan stew is Gerry's tune but somebody else's title; he is said to have vowed thereafter never again to leave the choice of a name to another. Begin the beguine is Cole Porter's classic from the 1935 show 'Jubilee'. The way of all flesh was simply adopted as a title at about the time Mulligan was reading Samuel Butler's novel. Sometimes I'm happy V is one of the incredibly simple but highly effective numbers that came so readily to Vincent Youmans. It was in a 1927 musical called `Hit the Deck'.

When this record was played back, Mulligan was reported as being pleasantly surprised to hear how well this early work of his had stood the test of time. But he writes in a timeless way and, except when he's setting fashions for others to follow, has a sweeping disregard for such temporary things as musical fashions. What other modernist (if that term is not itself too restrictive) would dare to call himself a Dixieland musician, or admit that he'd been influenced by Red Nichols' Five Pennies? Come to that, how many jazzmen could have written with both originality and maturity while still in their teens and not only please a bandleader of an earlier musical generation altogether, but make him think it worth while rerecording those same arrangements a dozen years later still ?

Gene Krupa, who began his recording career a few months after Gerry Mulligan was born, was one of the first drummers whose technique was up to the demands of the swing era. Beginning as a Chicagoan, both geographically and musically, he went into big commercial dancebands in the early thirties, and by the time he joined Benny Goodman in 1935 he was not only a very able drummer but a first rate showman as well. He continued to propel the Goodman band in spectacular fashion until he left to form a band of his own in 1938. With a gap in the mid forties, when in the space of a few months he returned to Goodman and did a spell with Tommy Dorsey, he led a band continuously until 1951, when he first became part of Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic Empire.

One of the most striking things about jazz development in recent years has been the steady change in rhythm sections; by current standards Krupa is practically old-fashioned. But he's a great driver, a propulsive force whose powers of getting a big band off the ground are as full as ever. If he has changed at all it is in the matter of restraint. My memory seems to tell me that he had an over fondness for the bass drum in the swing days, a tendency to make a lot of noise out of sheer exuberance But here he plays with a light crispness and an almost unbelievable accuracy, steering an eager band through the spacious framework of a dozen arrangements provided by the almost unknown young arranger he'd had the farseeing good sense to employ all those years earlier."


Gene said of his time with Mulligan:

“I was attracted by the new jazz. After listening to Dizzy [Gillespie] and Bird [Charlie Parker] for a while, I began to hear music differently. It wasn’t too long before I made a commitment to this music. I hired Gerry Mulligan. An original arranger who was deeply involved with what was happening, be brought us “Disc Jockey Jump,” which was not only well-received, but established the fact that we were serious about going in another direction. My other arrangers [were] George Williams, Neal Hefti and Eddie Finckel …. These were exciting up-to-date guys. I let them go; only occasionally did I edit their scores or shelve what I felt wouldn’t work.” [Burt Korall, Drummin’ Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz, New York: Macmillan, 1990, p. 80].

And Gerry had this to say of his time with Krupa:

“I was young when I worked for him. And he was very good to me. You know, he introduced me to the music of Maurice Ravel. He always liked to take a record player with him on the road. He loved Ravel and Delius, too.

For reasons that are detailed in Nat Hentoff’s The White Mainstreamer chapter from his work Jazz Is and which will be included in its entirety later in Part 3 of this featureMulligan was fired off the Krupa band and next began arranging for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, occasionally sitting in as a member of the reed section.

Thornhill's arranging staff included Gil Evans, whom Mulligan had met while working with the Krupa band. Mulligan eventually began living with Evans, at the time that Evans' apartment on West 55th Street became a regular hangout for a number of jazz musicians working on creating a new jazz idiom.

"In 1947-48, when Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan wrote arrangements for the Claude Thornhill band, the jazz-oriented instrumentals swung without shouting, and hinted at a bebop equivalent of early Count Basle and Lester Young, and It was those arrangements that inspired Miles Davis to have Evans and Mulligan create a nine-piece version of the same sound, known retrospectively as the 'Birth of the Cool' band. But Thornhill was not just historically significant, the original performances of his band stand up In their own right and are still as fresh as the day they were recorded."- BRIAN PRIESTLEY

Unfortunately, the 1948 recording ban imposed by the James Petrillo, President of the American Federation of Musicians, prevented Columbia from recording most of the arrangements that Gerry wrote for the Thornhill band.

Gerry had this to say about his experience with Claude:

“There was always a sense of the mystical about that band and its aura, and all that came from Claude. The idea of the whole ambience of the sound, the kind of voicings that were more orchestral than band-like, that was all Claude’s doing. It was a natural and willing adaptation that Gil underwent to write for the band; his way of using it was to apply his own unique talent to that instrumentation. It turned out to be the same thing for me, it gave me the opportunity to write for a band that was totally unlike the others that I had written for.”

When asked to compare Claude Thornhill to Stan Kenton, Gerry observed:

“They were probably exact opposites. Thornhill was an introvert, his music was very artistically oriented. His whole attitude was music as an expression of the spirit, and he was much drawn to the Impressionists and the music of that period. Kenton, on the other hand, was an extrovert, and his music was very extroverted and his musical heroes would be more like Wagner. They were polar opposites. The sense of how to produce the sound: the Kenton band was very muscular and physical; the Thornhill band was much more spiritual and cerebral and sensitive.” [Both of these Mulligan quotes are drawn from Will Friedwald’s insert notes to Claude Thornhill – Best of the Big Bands Columbia CK 46152].

As is explained in the following excerpt from the insert notes to Elliot Lawrence Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements by George T. Simon, around 1949, Gerry began producing arrangements for Elliot Lawrence’s band which:

came out of Philadelphia and radio station WCAU to become a nationally known organization in the late Forties and Fifties. One of the band's sometime tenor saxophonists eventually became a major contributor to the band's book. His talent as an instrumentalist emerged on the baritone saxophone and his writing skills were in evidence in several big bands.

Gerry Mulligan had already done "Disc Jockey Jump" for Gene Krupa when Lawrence recorded his "Elevation" and arrangement of "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" in 1949. Later Mulligan did some important charts for Stan Kenton, and finally, for his own Concert Jazz Band.

These 1955 dates yielded 12 Mulligan arrangements, including seven originals and "Mr. President," a scoring of Lester Young's solo from his 1939 recording with Count Basie. A full listing of the tracks on this album includes:

The Rocker
Bye Bye Blackbird
Happy Hooligan
My Silent Love
Bweebida Bwobbida
Strike Up the Band
Apple Core
Elegy for Two Clarinets
The Swinging Door
But Not For Me
Mr. President

The Lawrence band interprets the Mulligan scores with style and bite, giving ample solo space to Al Cohn's tenor saxophone, Eddie Bert's trombone, Hal McKusick's alto sax, and the trumpets of Nick Travis and Dick Sherman [as well as the lead trumpet of Bernie Glow].
These Mulligan's scores are marked by [his] warmth and taste ... The section work is wonderfully firm and precise and swings crisply...”

Around the same time that Mulligan began arranging for Elliot Lawrence, as Doug Ramsey explains in his essay Big Bands, Jazz Composing, Arranging After WW II in The Oxford Companion to Jazz:

“Mulligan was one of a group of young writers and players who in the late 1940s assembled in the Manhattan basement room of Gil Evans, their guru, to exchange ideas. Like Miles Davis, Mulligan was enchanted with Evans's work for Claude Thornhill. Evans and Mulligan wrote for Davis's nine-piece group, as did John Lewis and Johnny Carisi, with the Thornhill sound as their basic model. The band's 1949 and 1950 records, later collected as The Birth of the Cool (Capitol), became one of the most influential bodies of music in jazz. Their concepts led to the Evans-Davis collaborations that resulted in Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain (Columbia), Mulligan's 1953 Tentette (Capitol), and his Concert Jazz Band (Verve, EuroJazz).” [p. 413].

In his incisive insert notes to the CD reissue of Birth of the Cool, Pete Welding offers these thoughtful and thought-provoking comments about this seminal recording and its significance:

“In jazz, as in other music, some things are of their time, some ahead of it, while others simply know no time at all. The music produced by the Miles Davis Nonet, whose entire recorded output is contained in this album, is all of these and more. Not only was it the product of a specific time and place -and the special grouping of musicians involved in its creation-but it was demonstrably ahead of its time, having influenced a number of jazz developments that followed and took their lead from it. Then too, as listening will make immediately apparent, it's timeless as well, as most perfect things are.

Many things flowed from this seminal source-subsequent developments in Davis' own music and in those of various of its participants, notably Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans and John Lewis; much small group jazz of the '50s and '60s which drew upon various of its elements as well as its underlying philosophy; the whole West Coast jazz movement, and so on. All of which is even more remarkable when one considers how little the Nonet recorded or, more important, performed in public. (The latter generally is the best indication of how musical advances are perceived and received by the listening public.)

Still, while jazz audiences of the late 1940s may have been indifferent to the music of the Nonet, at least to the extent of supporting its New York club dates, jazz players of the time evinced no such resistance but, rather, were quick to recognize the beauty and creative audacity of its music, the quietly revolutionary character of its approach to the small jazz ensemble, and the potential for further development implicit in it. Musicians in fact were the first to respond to what was signaled in the Nonet's recordings, and they did so almost immediately. Within two years of the group's final recording session Gerry Mulligan had incorporated various of the Nonet's musical precepts in the formation of his celebrated pianoless quartet with Chet Baker and was enjoying great success. Trumpeter-arranger Shorty Rogers assimilated its lessons, first into the arrangements he was doing for the Stan Kenton Orchestra and, from 1951 on, even more fully for his small group The Giants from which so much that was viable in the then emerging West Coast jazz idiom took its lead. John Lewis, another Nonet member, had formed and set the musical direction for the Modern Jazz Quartet based largely on his experiences with the Davis group.

Throughout jazz, in fact, the most forward-looking younger musicians studied the Nonet's recordings with the closest interest and translated whatever they could to their own music. Nor did its influence end with these and like activities of the '50s, but in the four decades that have elapsed since the Nonet made its first recordings has colored the very fabric of small group and, through the further collaborations of Davis and Evans which grew from their work for the Nonet, orchestral jazz as well. Hindsight has shown, and only too clearly, that these are among the landmark recordings of modern jazz, the implications of which continue to resonate in ways large and small through the music even today.

While it would be stretching the truth to say that the Davis Nonet came about through happenstance, there was a certain amount of the fortuitous to it. And like many things labeled revolutionary after the fact, the Nonet's music actually evolved gradually, through a steady process of development and experimentation in which its approach was defined, refined and given final shape. …

In its music the Nonet sought to realize a number of interlocking goals. Foremost of these was the development of an approach to ensemble writing that would retain the freshness and immediacy of improvised music and in which would be fused elements from bop, and Parker's music in particular, with a number of jazz practices such as a light, vibrato-less tonality and a more subtle approach to rhythm that the boppers largely had eschewed, as well as an attempt at achieving the broadened coloristic and textural palette of the large orchestra while using a relatively small number of instruments. A corollary goal was the production of a balanced, more seamless integration between the music's written and improvised elements than was characteristic of bop, the arrangement in effect leading and anchoring the soloist who was, in turn, expected to return his improvisation and resolve it in reference to the written segment that followed. …

Let's reaffirm something here: catchy album title notwithstanding, the music of the Miles Davis Nonet was, is anything but cool. Controlled, lucid, tightly focused, succinct -yes. It's all these and more. but cool in the sense of being dispassionate or otherwise lacking in the fundamental emotional character one always associates with the best jazz, no! As anyone familiar with the Nonet's music can attest, it possesses an abundance of focused emotional power all the more effective for being so low-keyed, so apparently subdued in character." …”

And fortunately, in 1971 Gerry Mulligan himself was able to add his own reflections about the making of Birth of the Cool and many of the musicians who performed with him on these recordings:

“I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to be part of Miles' band. I'd been on the road a couple of years with various band by that time, but with Gil's encouragement I decided to stay in New York. With all the great bands that were around then, big and little, it was an exciting time musically. And everybody seemed to gravitate to Gil's place. Everybody influenced everybody and Bird was no. I influence on us all.

Gil lived in a room in a basement on 55th Street, near 5th Avenue. Actually it was behind a Chinese laundry and had all the pipes for the building as well as a sink, a bed, a piano, a hot-plate, and no heat. Some of the more-or-less regulars at Gil's I remember:
John Carisi, almost as hot-headed in an argument as I am. Anyone who writes a piece like "Israel" can't be all bad, right?
John Lewis, our resident classicist. 
George Russell, our resident innovator. (Wrote a couple of fine, interesting charts for Claude Thornhill's band that I suppose there's no trace of now.)
 John Benson Brooks, our dreamer of impossible dreams. 
Dave Lambert, our itinerant practical yankee.
Billy Exiner, drummer with Thornhill and our home philosopher, with his beautiful attitude toward life and music.
Joe Shulman, bassist with Thornhill; he believed Count Basie had the only rhythm section.
Barry Galbraith, the Freddy Greene of the Thornhill rhythm section and an altogether beautiful musician.
Specs Goldberg, blithe spirit. A fantastic intuitive musician who had a tough time trying to channel his free-wheeling imagination.
Sylvia Goldberg (no relation), piano student and whirlwind.
Blossom Dearie, blossom is blossom.
And Miles, the bandleader. He took the initiative and put the theories to work. He called the rehearsals, hired the halls, called the players, and generally cracked the whip
Max Roach, genius. I can't say enough about his playing with the band. His melodic approach to my charts was a revelation to me. He was fantastic and for me the perfect drummer for the band. (No small statement in view of the fact that Miles brought in Art Blakey and Kenny Clarke on the later dates.)

Lee Konitz, genius. Lee had joined Claude's band in Chicago and knocked us all out (including Bird) with his originality.
For the rest of the band, J.J. and Kai alternated on trombone. It wasn't too easy to find French horn players who were trying to play jazz phraseology but among those at our rehearsals were Sandy Siegelstein (from Thornhill), Junior Collins (who could play some good blues) and probably Jim Buffington. And Bill Barber on tuba. He used to transcribe Lester Young tenor choruses and play them on tuba. What a great player. As I recall, Gil and I also wanted Danny Polo on clarinet but he was out with Claude's band all the time and there was nobody to take his Place. Not long before Danny died we had some jam sessions at which he played the best modern clarinet jazz I've ever heard.
As I said at the beginning, I consider myself fortunate to be there and I thank whatever lucky stars responsible for placing me there. There's a kind of perfection about those recordings and I'm pleased that all the material is finally being released on one set. And without electronic "stereo." To paraphrase an American innovator, Gertrude Stein: a band is a band is a great band.

To be continued in Part 2 with Bill Crow.

"Gerry Mulligan, whose career spanned five decades, worked gracefully in many styles and with many artists, defying the categories that so often narrow our vision of a creative spirit.
"Gerry Mulligan would not, could not, be categorized, and he flourished through changing times, in many cultures, and with many musical voices ranging from the baritone saxophone that was his principal instrument, to the full orchestra."
- James H. Billington
in opening remarks at the inauguration of the Gerry Mulligan Library of Congress Exhibition, 
April 6, 1999

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

Did I mention that I like listening to Gerry Mulligan’s music?

At times, I think of his music as something of a throwback. It reminds me of an earlier time in Jazz when the principal point of the whole thing was making music that was fun to play and fun to listen to.

While there are highlights in abundance from Gerry Mulligan’s later musical career, the small combo recordings that he made with various groups during the decade of the 1950s hold a special place in modern Jazz lore. The reasons for this have as much to do with serendipity as they are to do with Mulligan’s talent, highly developed musical skills, and dogged determination to succeed in Jazz on his own terms.
To put a slightly different spin on the well-known adage – “I’d rather be lucky than good” – in Mulligan’s case, this became – I’d rather be lucky and good - which he was, hence luck and competence became the main reasons for his enduring success.

As has already been demonstrated in Part 1 with the review of his accomplishments before coming to California in 1952, Gerry Mulligan was a very proficient composer-arranger. While he would continue to refine these music writing skills, during the decade of the 1950's, he also became one of the premier baritone saxophonists in Jazz.

As Larry Bunker, who replaced Chico Hamilton on drums, with the original Gerry Mulligan Quartet from January – June, 1953 recalls:

“Gerry was enormously knowledgeable and skilled in harmonic structure and chord changes - all of that. He could solo in a very linear fashion as well, but he may have wanted to play in a more vertical way because we didn't have a piano. He played the piano sometimes himself, and although he wasn't a great pianist, he knew what he wanted to do on the instrument. On baritone he was amazing, but sometimes it was a little hard to play with him, especially on a double-time thing where he would blow so many notes that he would get behind the time. I would be scuffling along, trying to drag him with me, but that was because of that big, awkward horn he was playing. Unlike an alto or tenor, it takes a long time for the air to get through. I have great respect for him both as a writer and a player.

I remember he did something really wild when we recorded those tentet things. We rehearsed one of the pieces, and after we made a take on it, we listened to the playback. Gerry flopped down on the floor in the middle of the studio, concentrating in a really dramatic, Christ-like pose, with his arms outstretched and his eyes closed. When the recording was finished, he got up off the floor and said, "O.K., guys -pencils." He then proceeded to dictate a new road map for the chart, which completely rearranged it, and when he counted us in, it was like a brand new piece of music. His writing had a magical quality, and he probably influenced both Bill Holman and Bob Brookmeyer, because he was a fantastic arranger.” [As recounted to Gordon JackFifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective, LanhamMD: Scarecrow Press, 2004, p. 149].

As to the serendipity-in- combination-with-skill part of the-Mulligan-equation-for-success-in-Jazz, Ted Gioia offers these observations:

"Certainly Mulligan had hardly been in California long enough to get a suntan when he teamed with Baker to form one of the most creative combos ever to grace a Los Angeles bandstand. This was an unlikely turn of events for the pair. Only a short while before, Baker had been laboring in obscurity with a local Dixieland band at Sea] Beach-the leader had hired him because Baker's playing reminded him of Bix Beiderbecke.

Mulligan’s profile was so low that he had traveled to California by hitchhiking, rather than purchase costly train or plane tickets. But now this duo was poised to legitimize and publicize West Coast jazz to a greater extent than anyone had done before. The Mulligan Quartet's distinctive approach-open, clean, smooth, lyrical with a dose of the cerebral-would come, for many, to define the West Coast sound. …

…, the public image of the Mulligan-Baker quartet was that of a well-oiled machine. There was no wasted energy or empty emoting in their music. Each note struck the mark. Seldom had a jazz combo played more effectively together. And not since the days of Jelly Roll Morton had a band shown such a knack for creating a collective sound, a perfectly balanced give-and-take between all members.

The simplest ingredients underscored this success: active listening; an acute sensitivity to instrumental textures; a studied avoidance of the easy licks and empty clichés of bop and swing; in their place, fresh, uncluttered lines, cleanly played. Above all, the band overcame the jazz musician's greatest fear: the fear of silence.

Emerging on the scene during the sturm und drang of the bop era-a time when musicians seemed to be paid piece rate by the note-these players clearly served a different muse, judiciously balancing sound and quiet, happily understanding the poet's dictum about the sweetness of unheard melodies."[insert notes, from West Coast Classics - Gerry Mulligan: The Original Quartet with Chet Baker, Pacific Jazz, CDP 94407, paragraphing modified].

Michael Cuscuna comments as taken from the insert notes to The Best of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker [Pacific Jazz CDP 95481] may help to put all that happen on that magic carpet ride that was the 1952-53 Gerry Mulligan Quartet featuring Chet Baker in a more temporal context:

“It seems hard to imagine that such an influential group, still revered in nostalgic and historic circles, lasted a mere 11 months.
Through their appearances at The Haig and their singles for Pacific jazz (the first of which was recorded in August of'52), the group developed an ever-spreading and deserved following.

The interplay between Mulligan and Baker was empathetic and uncanny. Freed of the piano's conventional role and its domination in the scheme of arranging, the group developed ingenious charts which emphasized melodic elements over the harmonic and encouraged interplay among the horns and freer thought in solo flights.

The limitation of two voices (and sometimes a third with the bass) seemed to ignite Mulligan's already, fertile mind. Whether remodeling a standard or introducing an original, Mulligan stretched his limits and came upon a sound that was not only new and stimulating, but also incredibly fascinating and accessible to the general public.

Four months after their first recordings for a then eight-week-old label, they were stars beyond the jazz world with full page features in magazines like Time and choice engagements around the country. Through records, their popularity spread with immediacy into England and Europe.

Thanks to Dick Bock, a healthy slice of that innovative and Popular quartet's life was documented.” [paragraphing modified]

Ironically, as the Los Angeles Jazz scene was growing and expanding during the decade of the 1950s, Gerry Mulligan, one of the main causes for this growth, was returning to the East Coast where we pick up the story of more of the development of his various groups through these excerpts from bassist Bill Crow’s From Birdland to Broadway: Scenes from a Jazz Life [New York: Oxford University Press, 1992] Should you like to order a copy of Bill’s work, you can do so by Going Here.

As has been pointed out on a number of previous occasions, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles makes a concerted effort to feature great writers on the subject of Jazz and Bill Crow is one of the best of these practitioners. His musings are always filled with anecdotes, asides and reminiscences that provide additional human dimensions to the subject at hand, in this case, his time with Gerry.

© - Copyright protected; used with permission; all rights reserved.

“Stan Getz’s quintet broke up in California not long after I left him. Bob Brookmeyer stayed in Los Angeles for a while, sometimes playing with Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan, who had both moved out there. Bob eventually became a regular member of Gerry’s Quartet. The, on one job, Gerry added Zoot and Jon Eardley, and the Gerry Mulligan Sextet was born.

Gerry, Zoot, and Brookmeyer moved back to New York, and Gerry formed a new sextet with ldrees Sulieman on trumpet. Through Idrees' recommendation, Peck Morrison became the bass player, and Peck brought in Dave Bailey as the drummer. Idrees never recorded with the sextet; when he left in 1955, Jon Eardley came east and took his place.

That winter, Peck left the group and Gerry asked me to replace him. I was happy with Marian's trio, but I loved Gerry's music, and I couldn't turn down the chance to play regularly with Zoot and Bob. I gave Marian my notice and began rehearsing with Gerry in December 1955. The sextet, like Gerry's quartet, used no piano, even though he and Brookmeyer both played that instrument. Gerry built his arrangements for the four horns on just the bass line and the drums.

Marian's lovely harmonic sense and her penchant for playing tunes in unusual keys had drawn me into improving my playing technique, and she had given me room to develop as a soloist. But as soon as I joined Gerry's group I discovered I was in technical trouble. The fingering system I had invented for myself worked fine in the lower register of the bass, but I hadn't figured out how to be accurate in the upper register. I could play high notes if I worked my way up to them, but I couldn't be sure I had my finger on exactly the right spot on the fingerboard if I had to begin a passage on a high note.

I found some of Gerry's bass parts hard to play. I made pencil marks on my fingerboard to help me find troublesome notes, but I saw that it was time that I learned some of the things that other bass players seemed to know. The only time I'd ever heard anyone mention a bass teacher was when Marian's trio had played on a CBS radio show; staff bassist Trigger Alpert had told me that he was studying with Fred Zimmerman. I called Trigger and got Fred's number.

I couldn't have found a better teacher. Fred, the principal bassist with the New York Philharmonic at the time, taught with skill and imagination. At my first lesson I explained that I was self-taught and didn't know the right way to do anything. Fred said, "So, we'll just start you at the very beginning, as if you'd never played before. That way, we won't miss anything, and when we come to things you already know, it will go quickly."

It was discouraging to discover how much I didn't know. For the next several years, I took lessons from Fred whenever I was in New York. He showed me the standard fingering system and encouraged me in my struggle with bow control. His empathy and interest were most helpful.
"I studied with a man who used to hit my hands with a stick when I made a mistake," Fred told me. "I swore then that if I ever became a teacher I would never add any pain to the learning process. The physical problems of playing the bass are already painful enough."

I would always go early for my lesson. Fred's apartment on West Fifty-fifth Street was filled with art treasures that I loved looking at. He had a collection of pre-Colombian gold weights, delightful little figurines. On his walls were Pechsteins, Kirschners, Klees, and several of Fred's own oils. His bookshelves were filled with what looked like a complete collection of the Skira art reproduction books.

When I made progress with the bass, Fred was always enthusiastic. Once he ran into the kitchen, got his wife, and had me replay a passage for her. Fred said, "Isn't that beautiful? And he isn't even serious about music!"

Fred may have felt that a vocation in jazz was frivolous, but he was open-minded. One day he had me play a few bars of dotted eighth notes he had copied out. I think it was from a Hindemith piece the Philharmonic was rehearsing. It looked like a swing figure to me, so I phrased it that way. Fred said, "That's not the way it's written."
"No, but that's the way any jazz musician would play it. We play most things that are written in four-four as if they were written in twelve-eight. It's swing phrasing."

"Aha!" said Fred. "I knew the way we were playing it sounded corny, but I didn't know why."

Fred told me excitedly one day that Charles Mingus had called him to do a record date with him. He knew Mingus' reputation as an innovator in jazz, and was eager to play his music. When I saw him the following week, I asked him how the recording had gone.

"It was a fiasco!" said Fred angrily. "Everything on my part was written at the very top of the range of the bass! It was almost impossible to play, and it sounded ridiculous. I told Mr. Mingus if he wanted to write cello parts, he should have hired a cello player! He kept saying it sounded fine. I was never so uncomfortable in my life!"

My first work with Mulligan's sextet was in nightclubs around the Northeast. We squeezed in a record date in January 1956 for a Mercury album that Gerry had begun while Peck Morrison was with him. Then in February we began a European tour. The promoter brought us to Italy on the Andrea Doria, the beautiful ship of the Italian Lines that sank the following year after a collision with a freighter. Gerry's wife, Arlene, came with us as our road manager, and Brookmeyer brought his wife, Phyllis. We rehearsed a couple of times on the ship, but I spent most of the trip playing ping-pong on deck with Zoot.

We played concerts in NaplesRomeMilanGenoa, and Bologna. It was Gerry's first European tour, and we were made very welcome. At a restaurant in Bologna our local guides said we should ask for a special Bolognese delicacy called "pompini." The waitress blushed deeply when we asked for some, and we realized we had been set up. "Pompini" turned out to be a local slang word for oral sex.

After the Bologna concert we were taken to a restaurant to meet the members of the local jazz club. We were each seated in a separate booth with several young Italians who were doing their best to discuss jazz with us in English. A commotion broke out at the bar, and the fans I was sitting with hurried me outside. They said some Communist students were trying to create a disturbance, and we would be safer out in the street.

I searched the throng that had rushed out of the restaurant with us, but I couldn't locate any of the rest of the sextet, or the Italian promoters who had brought us on the train to Bologna from Milan. just as I was wondering how I would get back to Milan if I couldn't find them, a young man stepped over to me and said, "Say, man, didn't I meet you in New Jersey at a jam session with Phil Urso?"

He was an American exchange student and a jazz musician. He helped me find the rest of my party, who had gone out a different exit onto a side street.

When we arrived to play at one Italian opera house, we saw a huge banner hanging across the front of the building that read:


Someone had evidently taken the names from our official papers. They had transformed Dave Bailey into Sammy Davis, Jr., by misreading Dave's full name: Samuel David Bailey, Jr.

Since Zoot's name had been omitted, he kept trying to hand his tenor to Arlene as we went on stage.

"You're the one they came to see," he said.

As we sat in a backstage greenroom during intermission, an Italian jazz fan who had begged or bribed his way past the house security men appeared with record albums for Gerry and Zoot to sign. He said to Jon, "And you are Jon Eardley, from AltoonaPennsylvania, whose father played trumpet with Paul Whiteman and Isham Jones and now works for a finance company?" Jon looked stunned.

"Man, nobody knows that!"

I was thrilled about visiting Italy, and I wanted to see everything. I got up at dawn every day and, armed with my Berlitz phrase book and a camera, walked all over every city we visited. When I returned to play the concert each evening, I'd report on the day's discoveries to the rest of the group. Zoot usually didn't venture too far from the hotel, but he seemed interested in hearing about what was out there. On the way to our first concert in Milan, Zoot saw something he liked in the window of a shoe store as we drove by. He asked me, "Do you know how to get back here?"

I did, and offered to accompany him the following day. I was a little surprised that Zoot was taking an interest in Italian shoes; he usually wore casual clothes: corduroy trousers, sweaters, and sneakers.
The next morning, when I tapped at his door, I found Zoot dressed and ready to go. We walked back to the neighborhood where he had seen the shoes he wanted. They turned out to be heavy brown canvas hiking shoes with thick rubber soles and high tops that laced up with hook eyelets. When Zoot tried on a pair his eyes lit up with pleasure.

"Yeah! These are my shoes!"

He wore them constantly for the rest of the trip.

When our Italian concerts were finished, the promoters put us on a stiffly sprung little Mercedes-Benz bus with seats as hard and straight as church pews. We slowly chugged across the French border and up to Paris via some very narrow roads. The ride was bumpy, but the scenery was great.

In Paris, we were installed in a pension near the stage entrance to the Olympia Theater, where we were to appear for a three-week run as one of the acts on a variety bill. The show opened with jugglers and comedians. We went on just before the Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold, who closed the first half of the show with their famous tap dancing routine. After an intermission there was a dog act, a dancing violin duo, another comedian, and then the headliner, Jacqueline Fran4;ois, the popular French Canadian singer.

When our turn came, the pretty young lady who was the emcee would step in front of the curtain and announce, "Et maintenant, Zhe-REE MOOli-GAHN et son sextette!"

The curtains would part and we would play about three tunes, and that was it for that show. With only two or three short appearances scheduled every day and all of Paris to explore in our spare time, it was inevitable that sometimes, when the curtain opened, someone would be missing. Jon slept through the first show one day, and on another afternoon Zoot stood at the stage door chatting with a friend for so long that our part of the show was over by the time he finally came inside the theater. The emcee would announce, "Et maintenant, ZheREE M00li-GAHN et son . . ." and then she would pause, peer behind the curtain and count heads, and then continue, son sextette!" or. . . quartette!" or whatever the number was at the moment. A lecture from Gerry brought us back up to full strength for the remaining shows.

The musicians in Paris made us very welcome. Henri Renaud and his wife Ny introduced us to many of them, and Henri took us to jazz clubs on the Left Bank where we could sit in after our last show. Zoot and Dave and I were jamming one night with Henri and some other musicians in a Left Bank sub-basement. Zoot's admirers had been toasting him liberally, and he was feeling no pain. He was too stoned to stand up, but he still felt like dancing, Slumped in his chair, eyes closed, he blew energetically into his tenor, playing chorus after chorus of his own special brand of whoopee.

On the last couple of choruses Zoot gave up trying to articulate anything intricate. He just swung the same simple riff harder and harder. He finally surrendered to exhaustion and relinquished the tune to the next soloist. Falling back in his chair, he looked over his shoulder and gave me a snaggle-toothed grin.

"You know," he said, "you can have a lot of fun with these musical instruments!" [pp. 133-38]

“In July 1958 1 got a call from Gerry Mulligan to rejoin his quartet. Joe Benjamin had replaced me when I left, and then Henry Grimes had replaced him. Now Henry was leaving to go with Sonny Rollins. Dave Bailey was still Gerry's drummer, and Art Farmer had just joined him on trumpet. I liked Art and admired his playing tremendously. We just had time for one rehearsal before our first appearance at Newport.

That was the year Bert Stern and Al Avakian came to film the Newport jazz Festival. They got good shots of the performers on stage, but after the sun went down, they couldn't photograph the audience in the dark.

While editing the film, Al found a problem with the lack of close-ups of the nighttime audience's reaction to the music. He solved it by throwing a party in New York, at which he showed rough footage of the movie. He filmed the reactions of the partygoers as they watched, and intercut those close-ups with the footage from Newport. Aileen and several of our friends who weren't at the festival attended that party and can be seen in the audience shots of the movie, Jazz on a Summer's Day….

On our first afternoon at Newport that year, Dave Bailey and I were sitting by the swimming pool at the Viking Hotel when Sonny Rollins arrived. Sonny was in bathing trunks and sandals, but he kept a white sailor hat pulled down around his ears all afternoon. The reason became evident at the concert that night. He came on stage with his trio (Roy Haynes and Henry Grimes) to reveal for the first time that he had shaved his hair into a Mohawk war-lock. He kept that hairstyle for quite a while.

A couple of years later, when Dave and I were playing at the Half Note with Bob Brookmeyer and Clark Terry, Rollins walked in and sat down at the bar. He was wearing a complete working cowboy's outfit: faded jeans, Levi jacket, sweat-stained Stetson hat, and cowboy boots. With a twinkle in his eye, Dave leaned over to me and whispered, "I guess Sonny found out that the Indians didn't win."

Mulligan had been thinking about band uniforms for the quartet. When Brookmeyer had been with us, we wore sport jackets from the Andover Shop in Boston. For the new group, Gerry sent us to Breidbart's on Sixth Avenue, a men's store favored by stylish dancers like Geoffrey Holder and Sammy Davis, Jr. The gray suits we bought there were sharp, but proved to be too warm for outdoor summer concerts. Gerry decided we needed something lighter and less formal. He took us back to Breidbart's and chose some royal blue linen trousers and short-sleeved gingham shirts with half-inch vertical red and white stripes. He added a touch of formality with black shoestring ties.

Dave and Art both had a little more meat on their bones than Gerry and I did, and their pants fit them very snugly. This was before macho pop singers made tight pants commonplace. When we showed up at the Great South Bay Festival on Long Island wearing our new outfits, Dizzy Gillespie discovered us backstage. He lifted his eyebrows dramatically.
"Will you look at these fools!" he cried, walking all around us to get a better view. He told Dave and Art, "You better not turn your backs when you get out on stage. You'll freak those little girls in the audience. You cats got some buns back there!"

I think Art and Dave were glad when the summer season ended, and we went back to wearing our gray suits. ...

Though it had been years since Gerry and Chet Baker had worked together, many fans of Gerry's early quartet records still expected to see Chet when they came to hear us. While we were playing at Storyville in Boston, two college boys came up to the bandstand. One of them asked Art Farmer for his autograph and Art obliged, but when the guy read his signature, he said, "Oh, aren't you Chet Baker?"

He started to rip up the slip of paper.

"Don't tear it up!" exclaimed his friend, "He may be somebody too, someday!"

In late 1958, we began recording an album for Columbia Records. Gerry complained that he couldn't write anything at home because the telephone and the doorbell were always ringing. I gave him the key to my Cornelia Street apartment and told him, "There's a piano there, and nobody will bother you. I'll be over at Aileen's place tonight. Go write something."

He did, and came to the last session with a lovely treatment of "What Is There to Say?" which became the title song of the album. Gerry had asked the rest of us to bring in tunes, so Art and I each wrote one. Art's was an untitled blues. Since Newport had been our first job together, Gerry suggested the title "Blueport."

Art had told me that "Buckethead" had been his childhood nickname, so I wrote that at the top of my tune, another blues, in three quarter time. When Art looked at the trumpet part I handed him, he laughed and said, "Oh, no, please don't call it that!"

"How about 'News from Blueport?'" Gerry offered- a spoonerism on "Blues from Newport." That became the title. The liner notes erroneously listed Gerry as the composer of both tunes, but Art and I receive the royalties. ... [pp. 164-167].

“… [In late spring, 1960], I got a call from Gerry Mulligan. He had put together a big band and taken it to Europe for a three week tour. After the tour, two of the three West Coast members of the band, Conte Candoli and Buddy Clark, had gone home to California. The third, Mel Lewis, decided to stay in New York. Clark Terry was taking Conte's chair, and Gerry asked me to replace Buddy, starting the following Tuesday night at the Village Vanguard. I sent in a sub to finish out Greenwich VillageU.S.A., and took my bass over to the Vanguard to rehearse.

To make it clear that we weren't a dance band, Gerry called us the Concert jazz Band, and put together a book of arrangements designed primarily for listening. It was a great band: Gene Quill, Bobby Donovan, Jim Reider, and Gene Allen in the reed section; Willie Dennis, Bob Brookmeyer, and Alan Raph on trombones; Nick Travis, Don Ferrara, and Clark on trumpets, and Mel on drums.

The money Gerry had earned in the movies had made it possible for him to pay for arrangements and equipment to get the band started. By the time Clark and I joined, Norman Granz had become involved as a backer. I'm not sure what sort of deal he and Gerry had made, but with Granz's support, it looked like we would be working steady for a while. The music was first-class, and we were all excited at the prospect. Our esprit de corps was very high; nobody sent in subs unless they were dying.

Besides having good soloists, one of that band's assets was having a good riff-maker in each section: Gerry, Clark, and Bob. On most arrangements, we didn't go to the next written section after someone's solo unless Gerry gave the signal. Gerry would improvise a background riff on a soloist's second or third chorus and the reeds would join him, in unison or in harmony. Bob or Clark would make up counter-riffs in the brass section, and soon we'd have developed something strong and new to lead into the next written section.

Gerry's music library included arrangements by Bill Holman, John Mandel, Brookmeyer, Al Cohn, Thad Jones, and Wayne Shorter, as well as his own charts. Gary McFarland, new in town, showed up at a rehearsal one day with a couple of compositions that had a strong flavor of Duke Ellington's writing. Gerry made a number of excisions and repositionings to make them more Mulliganesque. Gary saw what Gerry wanted and came in with several new pieces that were just right. We recorded them all. Gary's exposure with our band launched him into a successful arranging career in New York.

Gerry did another kind of editing when Al Cohn brought in an original he had titled "Mother's Day." Gerry retitled it "Lady Chatterley's Mother." After rehearsing it a couple of times, Gerry said, "Al, it's a wonderful chart, but I wish there was more of it. It just gets rolling and it's over. Could you add a few more choruses?"

Al nodded and gathered up the parts, and at the next rehearsal he passed them out again. The ending had been turned into a lead-in to another solo chorus for Gerry, and then Al's great shout chorus began. The first time we played it, the whole band cheered. If Gerry hadn't asked for more, we'd have had a good Al Cohn chart, but without that wonderful climax.

One Sunday afternoon at the Vanguard, Nick Travis brought in a movie projector, set it up in the kitchen, and showed us a reel of 8mm film that he had taken on the band's tour of Europe. Zoot had gone along as guest soloist. While the musicians were waiting on a railroad platform somewhere in Germany, Nick had started his camera rolling, and Zoot and Gerry had begun to do a soft-shoe dance. Zoot's dad was a vaudeville hoofer and had taught his sons the steps. As soon as Gerry realized that Zoot really knew how to dance, he stepped aside and let Zoot go by himself.

While Zoot continued a lovely, funny solo dance, the camera also recorded the approach behind him of a stolid German couple wearing very stern expressions. As they loomed directly behind Zoot, he did a spin that brought him face to face with them. Zoot registered their disapproving looks for a split second and then simply continued his spin for another quarter turn and stopped, facing Gerry, where he managed to look as if he'd been standing there talking all the while. Chaplin couldn't have done it better.

After a weekend in Fort LauderdaleFlorida, concerts at Freedomland in the Bronx, a week at Birdland, and another week at the Vanguard, Gerry broke the sad news. He and Norman Granz had terminated their business arrangement. When Norman sold his record label, Verve, to MGM Records, Gerry's recording contract, along with all the other Verve artists', was part of the deal. With no more Granz-sponsored European tours for the band, Gerry couldn't afford to keep us together. He had only one concert in Boston booked for the rest of the summer. He canceled that engagement, broke up the band, and told us he'd call us if he found anything in the fall.

The band re-formed now and then during the next three years for record dates and an occasional week at Birdland, but the spirit wasn't the same. We weren't the family we had been; we had lost the continuity and the feeling of commitment. Gigs with the Concert jazz Band were still fun, but the band wasn't the center of our lives any more.

Gerry continued to work with his quartet: Brookmeyer, Mel Lewis, and me. We appeared on Mike Wallace's television show during the time that Wallace was in the process of building a reputation as an investigative reporter. Wallace's TV interviews were popular partly because of his prosecutorial style.

At the rehearsal Wallace was courteous and low-key. He asked questions that had been prepared by his staff, and Gerry answered frankly about his career, his experiences with drugs and the law, and other aspects of his life. On the air, Wallace's tone became more contentious, and instead of asking the questions he had asked at rehearsal, he said accusingly, "I understand that you were involved with drugs, and did some time because of it!"

This left Gerry with little more to say than "yes." Though Wallace was using the information Gerry had given him at the rehearsal, he gave his audience the impression that he was confronting Gerry with the results of his own private investigations. Gerry managed to field Wallace's questions with his usual aplomb, but he found himself at a loss when Wallace asked him, "I notice there are no black musicians in your group. Is this accidental, or by design?"

Actually, it was the first time in many years that, by happenstance, there were no black musicians in Gerry's quartet, but any short answer to that question would have sounded lame. As Gerry considered how best to respond, Bob Brookmeyer glared at Wallace, jerked a thumb at Mel Lewis, and said frostily, "We've got a Jewish drummer. Will that help?"

Wallace dropped the subject.” [pp. 182-184]

To my mind, the Concert Jazz Band [CJB] has to rank as one of Gerry Mulligan’s very special musical achievements – right up there with the 1952 quartet with Chet Baker - and, as such, the CJB will be covered in greater detail in Gene Lees’ essay on Gerry which features in Part 4.

As Bill Crow explained and Gary Giddins underscores in the following quotation, the focus of the Concert Jazz Band was its music:

“A purely musical big band-no dancers, no singers, no hits, no nostalgia-was a risky proposition, despite a large and growing number of innovative jazz composers, among them Gil Evans, George Russell, Thad Jones, Bill Holman, Chico O'Farrill, Ernie Wilkins, Frank Foster, Manny Albam, Bob Brookmeyer, Neal Hefti, Johnny Mandel, Gerald Wilson, Oliver Nelson, Gary McFarland, and Mulligan himself. If anyone could make a go of organizing such an orchestra, Mulligan was the man. A bona fide jazz star steeped in big bands since his teens, he had the autocratic temperament to enforce discipline in the ranks and the easygoing charm to allay suspicion in the audience. He also had, at least in the beginning, the financial backing of Norman Granz and Verve Records. In case anyone doubted his intentions, Mulligan called his ensemble the Concert jazz Band. It debuted to critical acclaim in 1960 and lasted long enough to issue five recordings and spur a big band restoration.” [Visions of Jazz: The First CenturyNew YorkOxford, 1998, p. 361].

As to how he wanted the band to sound and why, Gerry offer the following explanation to Burt Korall in a magazine interview which Dom Ceruli included in his CD insert notes to Gerry Mulligan Presents A Concert in Jazz [Verve 2332; Japanese Verve POCJ 2686]:

"The band is the product of seven years of thinking and trying," he said "Typical instrumentation - seven brass, five reads. four rhythm - didn't work out; the sound was too heavy and full. The flexibility I had been so happy with in the small band was missing. We finally came up with our current set up six brass, five reeds, drums, and bass which allows for variety of tone color, and the flexibility and clarity of a small band.
We actually consider the brass as five brass - three trumpets and two trombones and a bass trombone. Five is a lighter feeling section for ensemble sound. And the reeds actually break down to an ensemble of a clarinet, alto sax, tenor, and baritone."

Gerry went of to say of this third LP by the CJB:

“We wanted this to be more a writer's album than what we had done before. The first album was cut in the studio with staples out of our book. It wasn't particularly concert material The second album was of the band in person, with the feeling you get at a live date. Here we have concert material, some of it pretty extended, and we have a band playing it that is a band rather than a good gathering of musicians.
I think that this band feels so much like a band now that we can play pieces like these for ourselves and feel how they would build for an audience"

And Dom Cerulli offered this excellent description of the textual qualities that Gerry was looking for when he organized the CJB when he offered this concluding statement to his notes:

“More than anything, this album proves that the band has achieved that lightness and flexibility so valued by Gerry, and that it has arrived at the point where it can tackle intricate and extended works without sacrificing the sensitive qualities which have been the hallmark of Mulligan 's style over the years.”

Throughout a career that spanned 50 years, the Concert Jazz Band may have been the ultimate stylistic expression of Gerry Mulligan and his music.

To be continued in Part 3 with Nat Hentoff.

“… 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 StoryFayettevilleUniversity 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 VillageLong 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.

“… Gerry Mulligan lived through almost the entire history of jazz. It is against that background that he should be understood.” – Gene Lees

“An orchestrator of ingenuity, wit and originality, Gerry Mulligan was a welcome antidote to the brassy blasts and relentless drive generated by the majority of competitors. Mulligan achieved excitement through color, shading and dynamics.” – Stuart Nicholson

“He knows exactly what he wants. He wants a quiet band. He can swing at about 15 decibels lower than any other band.” – Bill Crow

“My band offers a unique opportunity of learning and development for young players …. What I do with my band is use dynamics – dynamics of attack as well as volume. As a consequence, I think players get a particular joy out of playing that requires them to do things out of a wide range of possibilities.” – Gerry Mulligan in an interview with Charles Fox for BBC Radio 3, broadcast 4, May 1989

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

In his May 1989 BBC interview with Charles Fox, Mulligan further explained that his writing for big bands always stresses “ … a combination of low dynamics, light swing and meticulous attention to inner harmonic movement,” a style which he first put into practice with the 1949 ‘Birth of the Cool recordings’ and one which has been evolving ever since.

When asked about his 14-piece, Concert Jazz Band which experienced a resurgence in the 1970s after Gerry stopped working with Dave Brubeck that continued throughout the 1980s [mostly in Europe], Gerry stated: “From its inception, the Concert Jazz Band was based around the quartet. The orchestration, planning, everything about it was geared around Bob Brookmeyer and me; the valve trombone, the baritone sax and a piano-less rhythm section. And that was the basis for most of the arrangements. In my writing, I always like things more horizontal, evolved into lines with counterpoint.”

Charles Fox explains that “the horizontal style of writing big band arrangements tries to create different layers of melody all driving forward rather than it all being specified by the harmony which is vertical and based on a chord. So you go from chord to chord rather than trying to keep a melody flowing as in horizontal writing. Of course, bits of each technique cross-over, but the horizontal technique was something that Gerry Mulligan was particularly fond of.”

More details about Gerry Mulligan’s approach to arranging and composition can also be found in a series of articles that first appeared in the eminent Jazz writer Gene Lees’ Jazzletter.  

Because of their close and long-standing relationship, not to mention his considerable skills as a writer, many Jazz fans have long thought it logical that Gene Lees is the very best choice to author a biography of Gerry Mulligan. However, a closer inspector of the following essay on Gerry might yield the impression that he has already done so, albeit an encapsulated one.
Rich in detail and conversational repartee, as well as, comprehensive in its overview, there is no finer retrospective of Gerry Mulligan and his music than the following chapter from Gene’s Arranging the Score: Portraits of the Great Arrangers [New York: Cassell. 2000].

As Jeffrey Sultanof expressed in his Foreword to the book:

"… [Gene] knew the people he wrote about – Bill Evans and Gerry Mulligan, for example, were among his closet friends – and they trusted him with information that they would not share with any other writer, because they knew he would use what they said respectfully and accurately.

… He is an American treasure, finding the facts, celebrating the best that popular music and jazz has to offer, and helping us continue to explore their riches.”

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles is very grateful to the late Gene Lees for allowing it permission to feature his work.

© - Copyright protected; used with permission; all rights reserved.

I hear the shadows dancing: Gerry Mulligan

“When I became editor of Down Beat in May 1959, I telephoned one of my predecessors, Jack Tracy, by then a producer for Mercury Records. I asked him who, of the various musicians I would soon have to deal with, might give me a problem.

"Three guys," Jack said. "Buddy Rich, Miles Davis, and Gerry Mulligan." He added that, personally, he liked all three, but all three had prickly temperaments, and you had to accept them as they were; none of them more so than Buddy Rich. Perhaps because Jack had forewarned me, I had trouble with none of them, and indeed became very fond of all three.

Two of them - Miles Dewey Davis and Gerry Mulligan - were alumni of the Gil Evans "seminars" on West 55th Street, and of the Birth of the Cool records.

Among the bands I particularly liked in my late adolescence were those of Claude Thornhill, Elliot Lawrence, and Gene Krupa. Mulligan wrote for all three.

Gerry said,” I met Gil probably when I was arranging for the Krupa band. I knew about his writing before that. I used to visit Gil with Claude's band when I was working for other bands. One time I came back to New York after leaving one of the bands; it might have been when I left Tommy Tucker. And I stayed at the Edison Hotel. My room was on an air shaft on the west side of the building. And every morning about 10 o'clock, the band started to rehearse, because Claude was just back from the service and they were reorganizing. I would sit hanging out the window, listening to the rehearsals. A friend of mine, a guitar player from Texas, would come by, and we'd listen to the rehearsals.

I went back to Philadelphia, to write for Elliot Lawrence's band. And I lived there for a while. I got a postcard from Gil saying, 'What are you doing living in Philadelphia? Everything's happening in New York. Come back.' So I did. I stayed in a succession of rooms. Finally Gil said, 'Stay here."'

One of the records by the Krupa band that I liked was "Disc Jockey Jump," and I had bothered to note who wrote it: Gerry Mulligan. That was probably the first time I heard his name. I would soon hear it again: in the writing and playing credits on the so-called Birth of the Cool album.

Thirty-three years later, in early 1992, Mulligan would re-create that album for the GRP label, with John Lewis again on piano but Wallace Roney replacing Miles Davis, and Phil Woods replacing Lee Konitz.

Mulligan's interest in the format of those sessions continued beyond the Birth of the Cool sessions, and in January 1953, in Los Angeles, he recorded an LP made up almost entirely of his own compositions, including "Westwood Walk," "Simbah," "Walking Shoes," "Rocker," "A Ballad," "Flash," and "Ontet." I was becoming very, very conscious of this Gerry Mulligan, thinking he was one of the most important composers in jazz - though who was I to judge? I not only loved Mulligan's writing - I soon knew all those charts by memory, and still do - I loved his work as a soloist. He played a sort of rollicking, charming, unpretentious kind of piano, and he produced lovely solos on an instrument usually considered unsuitable for solos: the baritone saxophone, which he played with a light and highly individual tone that is now imitated all over the world.

That ten-inch Mulligan LP was part of the sound-track of my life at that time. By then I knew from pictures what Mulligan looked like: a tall young man with a brush-cut and a body almost cadaverously thin.

By then Mulligan had a quartet featuring Chet Baker on trumpet, which played Monday nights at a club called the Haig. The group had made its first recording for Dick Bock’s Pacific jazz label in August of 1952, a little over four months before the tentet record. The group startled critics because it used trumpet, baritone, bass, and drums, but no piano, always considered essential to communicating the harmony of a tune. Much was made of this "odd" instrumentation. It lay not in arcane musical philosophy, however: the Haig's owner could not afford more than four men. Red Norvo had played there with only vibes, guitar, and bass. Mulligan also got along without piano.

The rapport between Baker and Mulligan was remarkable. The emphasis was on counterline, and it seemed to free both horn players for ever more imaginative flights. Michael Cuscuna wrote in the notes for a CD reissue called The Best of Gerry Mulligan with Chet Baker.

‘The limitation of two voices (and sometimes a third with the bass) seemed to ignite Mulligan's already fertile mind.

Whether remodeling a standard or introducing an original, Mulligan stretched his limits and came upon a sound that was not only new and stimulating, but also incredibly fascinating and accessible to the general public. Four months after their first recordings for a then eight-week-old label, they were stars beyond the jazz world with full-page features in magazines like Time and choice engagements around the country.’

Mulligan was then 25.

So much legend has grown up around Chet Baker that his musical brilliance is often overlooked. Baker was a heroin addict: so was Mulligan. Mulligan would eventually break free of it, but Baker would not, leading a strange, bohemian, itinerant existence, hocking his horn from time to time, sometimes without clothes, sometimes even without shoes, surrounded by people who seemed fascinated by the morbidity of his existence. He got his teeth knocked out by dope-pushers for failing to pay what he owed them. He spent time in a jail in Italy. A story went around that when he met pianist Romano Mussolini, son of the murdered dictator, he said, "Hey, man, sorry to hear about your old man." I thought the story surely was apocryphal, but I asked Caterina Valente about it, and she said, "It's not only true, I was there. It was at the start of a tour."

Time ravaged Chet Baker. I encountered him only once, when he came into Jim and Andy's bar in New York to beg money, which the musicians willingly gave him. He looked bad. By the end, that clean-cut all-American boy face was a barren desert landscape of deep lines and gullies. He died from a fall from a hotel in Holland. It is widely believed that he was thrown from the roof by elements of the Dutch underworld, among the roughest in the world, for not paying a dope bill.

Whatever the cause of the death, the legend obscures the talent, and part of that legend is that he was just a natural who couldn't even read music. 
Mulligan was adamant in rejecting this.

Much of the music that quartet played was Mulligan's own. Only a few leaders, among them Dave Brubeck, Horace Silver, John Lewis, and Duke Ellington, have devoted their recording careers so extensively to their own compositions. What Baker was called on to do was very complex.

Mulligan told me: "People love to say Chet couldn't read: he could read. It's not a question of whether he couldn't read chords or anything like that. it's that he didn't care. He had one of the quickest connections between mind, hand, and chops that I have ever encountered. He really played by ear, and he could play intricate progressions."

"I presume that in blowing, you're playing by ear too," I said.

"Well at my best I'm playing by ear! But I often am saddled with thinking chords, until I learn a tune. And I have to learn a tune some kind of way. And, really, my connection between my ears and my hands is not that quick. Sure, when I've got a tune firmly under hand - which is different from having it firmly in mind - I'm playing by ear. It's taken me a long time to connect up."

"You said he could do that fast?"

"Yeah. Yes. Oh yeah."

"You'd run a tune by him and he'd get it?"

"Oh yeah. And in any key. He had incredible facility. Remarkable. So it's obvious that at some point in his life, Chet Baker practiced a lot. It's all well and good to be able to do that. You're not born able to do that. You're maybe born with a facility to learn quickly. It's like Charlie Parker. Everybody thinks Charlie came along full-blown, there he was. But as a kid, he was a heavy practicer. And Chet must have been too."

In view of its importance in jazz history, it is surprising to realize that the quartet with Chet Baker lasted only a year. Mulligan was arrested on a narcotics charge and sent to a California honor farm for three months, after which he returned to New York, where he established a new quartet with trombonist Bob Brookmeyer instead of Baker. With Jon Eardley on trumpet and Zoot Sims on tenor, the group recorded for Mercury as the Gerry Mulligan Sextet. But the quartet continued, growing constantly better, and it lost none of its momentum when Art Farmer succeeded Brookmeyer. The group (with Bill Crow on bass and Dave Bailey on drums) can be seen at Newport in the pioneering film Jazz on a Summer's Day.

And meanwhile, Mulligan made a series of albums for Norman Granz according to a formula Granz found appealing: mixing and matching various pairs of musicians. Mulligan recorded with Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Ben Webster (one of his early heroes), Johnny Hodges, and Paul Desmond, a particularly close friend.

When I joined Down Beat, I was well aware of the extent of the heroin epidemic in jazz: yet the subject was kept hushed. I did a good deal of research on the problem, asking many of the former addicts I was coming to know how and why they had quit. Al Cohn told me that an infection from a dirty needle settled into his eye, resulting finally in its surgical incision. "Losing your eye will make you quit," Al said in his sardonic fashion. Zoot Sims told me that he got into a car with a girl he was going with, left New York, and went through withdrawal in motel rooms as he made his way home to California.

And, later, when I knew Mulligan well enough, I asked him too how he quit. Gerry, not entirely surprisingly, took an intellectual approach to the problem. He met a New York psychiatrist who was interested in the problem of addiction. The psychiatrist said he could lose his license for what he was about to do. He said that he was going to supply Gerry with good syringes and medical morphine to replace the dirty heroin of the street. At minimum it would remove the danger and dark glamour from the practice. Morphine isn't as strong as heroin, but it's pretty good, as you know if you've ever had it in a hospital.

Gerry was playing a gig in Detroit. At intermission he went into the men's room, and he was inserting his nice clean medical syringe into his nice clean bottle of morphine when he stopped, thinking, "What am I doing to myself?"

He telephoned Joe Glaser, his booking agent, in New York, and told him to get him out of the job on grounds that he was sick. "And I'm going to be," he said. And he simply quit, going through the sweats and shudders and nausea of withdrawal. I always thought this was a remarkable act of courage. But Gerry said, "What else could I do? It was destroying the thing that means the most in the world to me, my music. I had a reason to quit. Had I been some poor kid in a Harlem doorway with nothing to look forward to even if he does quit, I don't think I could have done it."

I saw Gerry in person for the first time at the Newport Jazz Festival on the Fourth of July weekend of 1960. He had just organized what he called the Concert jazz Band. In a flurry of publicity, it was to make its debut at Newport. The big-band era was ended. Nobody - well, almost nobody tried to launch big bands any more. The ballrooms and dance pavilions were gone, or no longer booked bands. There's a dance pavilion in the rain, all shuttered down, Johnny Mercer wrote in the lyric he set to Ralph Burns' "Early Autumn." A new big band?

But I wanted to hear it: anything Mulligan did seemed likely to be innovative, as indeed that band was. I was backstage in a tent, talking with Dizzy Gillespie, when the first sounds of the band came to us. It was raining torrents. At stage left, the United States Information Agency had set up a shelter, a sloping canvas roof, to protect their television and recording equipment. They were recording the whole festival. The stage was chin high.

The band began to perform Bob Brookmeyer's lyrical arrangement of Django Reinhardt's ballad "Manoir de mes reves." In front of the stage, rain danced on a garden of black umbrellas. An imaginative cameraman panned across this audience in the rain, then across the stage, coming to rest on a great puddle, in which an upside-down Mulligan was playing an exquisite obbligato to the chart, leading into his solo. I was watching both the image and the reality. It was one of the unforgettable musical moments of my life.

I returned to Chicago, where Down Beat was headquartered. The Mulligan band was booked into the lounge in the Sutherland Hotel on the South Side. It had a largely black audience and booked the finest performers in jazz, black and white alike. Its disadvantage to performers was that they had to play on a high stage in the middle of the racetrack-shaped bar, and a band of thirteen had little room to move.

The group was startlingly fresh. Later Gerry told me he didn't think it was really a concert jazz band; it was a first-rate dance band. But he underestimated it. It was a gorgeous small orchestra, with a sound unlike any other. Gerry told me that he had previously tried to make small groups, such as the sextet, sound like big bands; now he wanted a big band to play with the fleet levity and light textures of a small group. Unfortunately, its book contained little of Mulligan's own writing. He found himself so busy running and booking the band that he didn't have time to write. Much of the burden of the composition and arranging fell on Brookmeyer, himself one of the most brilliant writers in jazz.

Something was going on during that Sutherland gig that none of us knew about, except, I think, Brookmeyer.

Gerry was going with and for some time had been in love with actress Judy Holliday, a gentle woman and one of the most gifted comediennes in American theater. She had just undergone a mastectomy. Gerry was playing the Sutherland in the evenings, then catching a red-eye flight to New York, sitting at her bedside as much of the day as he could, then getting an afternoon flight back to Chicago to work. He must have done all of his sleeping on the plane, and if he was drained and short-tempered at the time, it is hardly a wonder.

Some time during that week, I went upstairs with Bob Brookmeyer for a drink in the "band room," a suite of two or three rooms assigned by the hotel. Mulligan was in a bedroom with bassist Buddy Clark, whom I also knew by then, and they were in the midst of a heated exchange. Buddy shouted, "I'm getting sick of it! I'm tired of pulling this whole goddamn band by myself!" And Mulligan told him he wasn't pulling it by himself; he was getting plenty of help, and who the hell did he think he was? "I felt badly about that," Gerry told me some time later. "I didn't know Buddy was sick." Neither did anyone else, including Buddy. He had a rectal problem for which he later underwent surgery, and, he told me, his discomfort had made him short-tempered. He regretted the incident as much as Gerry did.

Mulligan, whose hair in those days was reddish-blond, came out of the bedroom and stopped in his tracks seeing me, a stranger, in the band's midst.

"Who are you?" he said harshly.

I told him.

"Oh God," he said, "that's all I need: press."

"You don't think I'd write anything about this, do you?" I said. And I never did, until now.

Mulligan stormed out, and the band played its next set.

I do not recall where next I encountered him, but by then everyone in the profession was crossing my path. By the time I moved to New York in July 1962, I knew him fairly well.

His influence, and through him that of Claude Thornhill and Gil Evans, had spread around the world. He had been a considerable influence on the
development of the bossa nova movement in Brazil, for example, and that is aside from all the baritone players on the planet whose sound resembled his.

There is no questioning this influence of Mulligan on Brazilian music. I had just returned from a tour of South America, and in Rio de Janeiro had met Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, both virtually unknown in North America, except to a few musicians such as Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, and particularly Dizzy Gillespie, always aware of developments in Latin American music. It was said that the album made by Bud Shank and Laurindo Almeida called Brazilliance had also exerted an influence, but American critics tended to deny this, probably on the politically correct grounds that West Coast jazz was unimportant, and even Bud Shank said to me once, "The Brazilians didn't need me." But Bud (who incidentally played alto on the Mulligan tentet album) was wrong. Claudio Roditi, the superb Brazilian trumpeter, told me that in the period of bossa nova's gestation, almost the only jazz records available in Brazil were those on Dick Bock's Pacific Jazz label. The Shank-Almeida album, he said, was indeed an influence. But the major influence, according to Gilberto and Jobim, was Mulligan, and the influence on Gilberto's singing was that of a French Caribbean singer - from Martinique - named Henri Salvador, whose work I knew and loved.

Jobim told me that part of the ideal of the bossa nova movement was to achieve acoustical rather than electronic balances in the music, one of the keys to Mulligan's thinking. Jobim told me at the time, "The authentic Negro samba is very primitive. They use maybe ten percussion instruments and the music is very hot and wonderful. But bossa nova is cool and contained. It tells the story, trying to be simple and serious and lyrical. Joao and I felt that Brazilian music until now had been too much a storm on the sea, and we wanted to calm it down for the recording studio. You could call bossa nova a clean, washed samba, without loss of the momentum. We don't want to lose important things. We have the problem of how to write and not lose the swing."

Jobim came to New York that autumn for a Carnegie Hall concert of Brazilian musicians and, backstage, Gerry became one of the first American musicians I introduced him to. We were often together after that. Jobim's song "0 Insensatez" begins with the chord changes of the Chopin E-minor Prelude and, as a send-up of Jobim, Mulligan recorded the prelude as a samba. Jobim and Mulligan remained friends to the end of their days, and Gerry would see him whenever he went to Rio de Janeiro.

Gerry was not, as everyone seemed to think, living with Judy Holliday. She lived in the Dakota, on West 72nd Street at Central Park West, and he lived a block away.

I saw more of Gerry after Judy's death of cancer, which devastated him. We both lived on the West Side, and, aside from Jim and Andy's downtown, we had two or three favorite restaurants in the area of Broadway and the West 70s and 80s, halfway between his apartment and mine, which was on West 86th. A lot of my lyrics, including those written for Jobim tunes, had been recorded by then.

Gerry loved theater, and we thought we should try to write a show together. We looked for an appropriate subject, and one of us came up with the idea of the relationship between Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell. I learned that Brady's house had stood approximately across the street from my apartment on West 86th a few doors in from Central Park. It had long since been replaced by an apartment building.

One of my happier memories is of that period when Gerry and I ran around to libraries and pored over books, absorbing the life of Diamond Jim, getting inside his mind, acquiring a feel for the New York of his time. We sketched out a script, and I think it was a good one. We wrote some songs. Gerry arranged a meeting with Hal Prince. The receptionist said, "Are you the Gerry Mulligan?"

And Gerry said, "I'm the only one I know."

She showed us in to see Hal Prince. And Hal Prince told us that a Diamond Jim Brady project was already under way, with Jackie Gleason set to play Brady and Lucille Ball as Lillian Russell.

We left Hal Prince's office feeling crushed, and no doubt stopped somewhere for a drink. Gleason and Ball would be perfect casting. All our excitement had been killed in an instant, and I suppose Gerry thought, as I did, of all our work being left to molder in a drawer. This would be the second disappointment of that kind for him. He and Judy Holliday, who was a gifted lyricist, had written a musical based on the Anita Loos play Happy Birthday. And although the songs were superb, Gerry had never been able to get anyone interested. One producer told him it could not succeed because the setting was an Irish bar. And, he said, "The Irish go to bars. Jews go to theater."

Gerry and I abandoned our Diamond Jim project. The show with Gleason and Ball was never made; it vanished into that limbo of unfulfilled Broadway projects.

One night Gerry and I went to see Stephen Sondheim's Company. Later we went to the Ginger Man for drinks and a late dinner. "I hate him," Gerry said. I said, "Me too." For Sondheim had done both music and lyrics, and both were brilliant. Long after, Gerry laughed when I recalled that night and said, "I've been trying to hate him for years and can't. He's too good."

One night in Jim and Andy's bar, Gerry said he had tickets for a new play and asked if I wanted to go with him. We ran down 48th Street to get to the theater by curtain time. We saw Jason Robards in A Thousand Clowns. The co-star was a young actress named Sandy Dennis. She and Gerry would be together for years, and then separate. Sandy is now dead, like Judy, of cancer. And like Gerry.

Being of English origin, I had for some time been noticing the scarcity of WASP English influence or even presence in American music, particularly jazz. Once, over dinner, I said, "Mulligan, you and I must be the only WASPs in the music business."

And, laughing, he said, "Speak for yourself, I'm an Irish Catholic."

Because he was not actively so, I asked him if he felt himself to be Catholic. He thought for a minute and said, "No. But I do feel Irish."

All this led to a series of observations on the ethnic origins of the Europeans in American jazz and popular music. Irish, Scottish, Welsh, yes; Polish, German, Jewish, Russian, just about any nationality you could mention. But very few English. Even those who bore "English" names, such as Joe Farrell, Louis Bellson, Eddie Lang, Will Bradley, and Glen Gray, had changed them to escape the prejudices of America.

It was during one such discussion that Gerry and I discovered we had arrived independently at the same conclusion: white American jazz musicians tend to reflect their ethnic origins in the style of their playing. And although this is not a universal verity, it often will be found to be true. Gerry told me that once, when he and Judy were listening to Zoot Sims, who was Irish, she said, "There he goes again - playing that Barry Fitzgerald tenor." And she imitated Fitzgerald's laughter, Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha, on a falling melodic line. It is a remarkably perceptive insight. But, even more to the point, listening to Gerry on a taped interview, I once heard him say something with the exact, momentarily falsetto, inflection of Barry Fitzgerald. And one part of Gerry's family came to America nearly a 150 years ago.

But speech patterns persist for long, long periods, and the accent of Normandy still echoes the speech of the Viking conquerors who settled there 1,000 years ago, and is in turn the source of the French Canadian accent. Perhaps the speech of Marseille descends from the Phoenicians. You will hear subtly Swedish inflections in Minnesota, even in those whose people have been there a long time.

I hear, I am certain, an Irish quality in Mulligan's playing and writing. It couples whimsy with melancholy, sadness with exuberance, it is at once lyrical and witty, and it is above all eloquent. I find that all very Irish.

In his last years Gerry led a quartet with piano. He continued to write for all manner of formations, including full symphony orchestra. An album on the Par label called Symphonic Dreams was recorded in 1987 by the Houston Symphony under Erich Kunzel. One of my favorite of Gerry's albums is The Age of Steam on the A&M label. Like the late Glenn Gould, Gerry had a fascination with trains. His Christmas cards usually showed one of the big old steam trains, often in a winter setting.

Proust points out somewhere in Swann's Way that fictional characters are transparent while the persons we know in life are opaque. Even those we know well are mysteries. We are mysteries even to ourselves.

So who was Gerry Mulligan? Where did he come from? Why did he love the old trains?

After 1969, Gerry and I never lived in the same city. I moved to Toronto for a few years, then to California. Once he came up to Toronto for a few days, and we did a television show together. We always stayed in touch. On my way to Paris, with a stopover at Kennedy airport, I called him from a phone booth. The conversation lasted an hour; it was mostly about Irish history.

An aristocratic Italian photojournalist named Franca Rota was assigned to cover him on a 1972 recording date in Milan: that's where they met. After their marriage, they lived in a house in Connecticut and an apartment in Milan, not far from the great cathedral and from the castle of the Sforzas, now a museum. I had lunch with them in Milan in 1984. By now Gerry did not smoke or drink. He never was a heavy eater, but his diet had become disciplined to the point of the Spartan. He told me I shouldn't use salt.

In the spring of 1994, we found ourselves on a jazz cruise of the Caribbean, with time for conversation, a little as in the Jim and Andy's days of memory. I asked him about things we had never discussed, in particular his family. I was aware that his relations with his father had been somewhat uncomfortable. It will usually be found that a gifted musician was encouraged by a parent or both parents, but not Gerry.

He was the youngest of four boys, in order: George, Phil, Ron, Gerry. All three of his brothers became, like their father, engineers, and Gerry's father wanted him to be one.

"Don't you think that's affected your work?" I said, thinking of the sense of design in all Gerry's writing and playing.

"Some of the attitude of the builder, the constructor, I suppose," he said.

"What did he do exactly? I asked.

Gerry said, "By the time my father was mature, they had started to use engineering to improve efficiency and practices in factories. It was the beginning of the time-study period. The pejorative term for what my father did was 'efficiency expert'. Of course, the companies hated to see people like that coming because they knew they were going to have to work hard. And it meant that a lot of people were going to lose their jobs because they streamlined the procedures. So he was schooled in all sorts of engineering.

"I remember when I was in high school in Detroit, he put himself through night school in aeronautical engineering, just to increase his own abilities. But he had his peculiarities. He had this image of having an engineering business with his sons. Dynasty time. My brothers fought that battle pretty well. My oldest brother didn't want to go to engineering school, and my father was only going to send him to school if he studied engineering. And I think he finally knuckled under and went and was very unhappy in engineering. The brother after him liked it, so it was all right.

"My father had a kind of strange attitude. I have realized in recent years, he was kind of anti-education and anti-intellectual. It was too bad, because he missed a lot of things. At the point where I started to be in contact with other musicians, especially the people with education, which I didn't have have never had - I heard Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe. My father's response was, 'Ravel only ever wrote one piece, and that was the Bolero.' Well you realize you can't have much conversation with people who think like that."

"There's a similarity here," I said. "My father had the same anti-intellectual attitude. He once said, 'An intellectual is like a man in a white suit who can't change a tire."'

Gerry mused on that for a moment, then laughed - he liked to laugh, often a short sardonic chuckle, and there was a kind of effervescence in his voice and said, "If I'd been smarter when I was young, and my father had come right out and said that to me, I'd have said, 'Yeah, well I want to be the man in the white suit. Let somebody else change the tire!"' And he laughed again.

I remembered the Gerry Mulligan wind-up doll Bob Brookmeyer invented. You wind it up, put it on the table, and it sends for room service. Gerry later amended that, satirizing himself: "Hello, room service? Send up the concert."

"What was your father's name?" I asked. "And where did the family come from?"

"His name was George. His family was from WilmingtonDelaware. His family must have come over here from Ireland in, probably, the 1850s or thereabouts. My mother was half Irish. Her mother was born in Germany, and her father's family was Protestant Irish. So I came along with a built-in dichotomy.
"I was born in New York, but before I was 1, my father picked up the family and moved to Marion, Ohio, where he became an executive with a company called the Marion Steam Shovel Company: the biggest business in town, a big, big, big factory. To this day, you'll see older equipment with that name on it. And then he was with another company that made Hercules road rollers and stuff like that. So we were out there until I was 10 years old and in about fourth grade." Laughing, he added: "So I always say I did 1 to 10 in Ohio.

"After that he went with a big company, May Consulting Engineers, still one of the biggest, based in Chicago. He did a lot of jobs for them. And because all these jobs would take a year or two, we wound up going with him. From Ohio he went to a job in Puerto Rico for a winter.

"Meanwhile, my grandfather, who was a retired locomotive engineer from the Pennsylvania Railroad, had died. He and my grandmother lived in South Jersey. So we went there for a while.

"My father then went to Chicago. We were there for one school year. I started to go down the garden path, because what was available there was four theaters that had big bands playing. I was old enough to get on the El and go downtown. We lived at 4200 North, near Sheridan Road. Not far from the lake. I went to the grade school whose claim to fame is that Joyce Kilmer and Janet Gaynor went there. I spent my time learning how to run fast. I was the country bumpkin. I guess it was the beginning of various kinds of ethnic warfare. The kids were ganging up on other kids, and I guess I looked like a likely subject, because they'd chase me and beat the hell out of me if they could.

"Then my father went to a job in KalamazooMichigan: we were there for about three years. That's where I first got some training on an instrument, barring the one semester in second grade in grade school that had piano lessons. At the recital, I would get halfway through a piece and forget it. About the second time I started over they came and took me offstage, like amateur night at the Apollo. And the nun told my mother, 'Just save your money. He will never play these things the way they were written! A nun had said it to my mother, therefore it must be the truth.

"In Kalamazoo, I wanted to take trumpet but I got side-tracked onto clarinet. I liked clarinet, because I liked Artie Shaw a lot, and I liked the Thornhill band, with Irving Fazola. I loved the sound of Irving Fazola, and one thing led to another. I wrote my first arrangement in Kalamazoo.

"I went to a public school the first year in Kalamazoo. There was a kid who lived across the street who could play trumpet. He could play things like "Carnival of Venice" and "Flight of the Bumble Bee." I was the most envious kid you ever saw. I admired him and we were best friends.

"The next year they sent me downtown to the Catholic school. The school was right next to the Michigan Central tracks. Every day I'd go out for the recess just as the Wolverine was going by. I used to see the people sitting in the dining car, with the white tablecloths and the silverware. The Wolverine was a very classy train on the New York Central. For a long time the Wolverine had the fastest schedule of any train in the country. Those were the Michigan Central tracks, but the Michigan Central was part of the New York Central. A great train, going by. And here I am in this filthy play-yard in the freezing cold. I was envious then, too."

"Does that explain your fascination with trains?" I asked.

"Well it runs in the family. My father's family had been with the B&O and the C&O, and on my mother's side, her father was a locomotive engineer with the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Irish built a lot of the railroads in this country. So I came by it naturally.

"The next year, they put up a new building and the school moved over there. They decided they were going to have their first school orchestra. They got a teacher and everything, and I learned the basics of the clarinet, and now we had an instrumentation not to be believed: probably a trumpet, a clarinet, two violins, and God knows what. An ungodly conglomeration. So I sat down and wrote an arrangement of "Lover," because I was fascinated by the chromatic progressions. I brought it in to play, and like a damn fool I put the title "Lover" on the top of it. The nun took one look at it and said, 'We can't play that.' So I never heard my first chart.

"But what's more interesting is what prompted me to write an arrangement in the first place. I don't know the answer: I just wanted to do it. I figured I could do it. I'd figured out how to make a transposition chart. I had one of those charts that you put behind the piano keys when you're a kid starting out. I guess I was in about the seventh grade at the time. A lot of us who were arrangers, there was always a kind of fraternity among arrangers, because of the recognition of the similarities. There are things that you know how to do and don't know how you know. I knew the basics of orchestration without having to be told."

"Could you, in grade seven, actually listen to a record and hear the chord content?"

"A lot of it, sure. The thing that I liked about the bands was the textures. I always was hooked on that. What you do with a single instrument is nice. What you do with a whole bunch of instruments becomes an interesting challenge to make it all add up to something cohesive. And to turn this thing that deals with a lot of mechanics into music is a miracle.

"If somebody had said, 'You can't do it, it might have stopped me. But nobody did."

"Let me get this straight," I said. "As a kid in grade seven, you could simply hear the contents of arrangements on records, hear the voices, without lessons?"


"To me, that's weird. Henry Mancini was the same. He could just hear it. He told me, and Horace Silver did the same thing, that he'd play records at slow speeds until he could figure out what was in the chords."

"I wasn't that smart," Gerry said. "I did it the hard way."

"Your parents were not musical?"

"My mother and father were both born in the '90s. So they were in their twenties and thirties in the '20s and '30s of this century. And they both learned enough piano to be able to play.

"My father could read, but he read like an engineer. He could sit down and play a piece of music, but he'd miss all the accidentals, play lots of wrong notes, and just go happily along. But my mother played very nicely. She liked pretty music."

"Obviously you left Kalamazoo eventually," I said.

"We went from Kalamazoo to Detroit. There wasn't music proliferating in the schools. There was no such thing as jazz courses. And no such thing, really, as available lessons on an instrument. Music was a very separate and separated thing.

"But there was music around. Detroit is where I got totally hooked on boogie-woogie piano players. I loved Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson and Pinetop, that whole era. It was such a joyful, funny, dynamic music. In Detroit we had at least one thing: the Michigan Theater played bands. That's one of the days I can pinpoint accurately: I know where I was on the seventh December, 1941. It was Sunday and I was at the Michigan Theater to hear Erskine Hawkins. I loved that band.

"I didn't realize it then, but Erskine liked a very thin sound. And apparently he liked guys in the section to have that sound. As a consequence, when they played even reasonably high, it sounded exciting: it sounded piercing. A high C with a thin sound really sounds high. Then later on, I wrote things for bands with guys with incredible chops; they could play a high C that was so fat that it didn't sound high. They had to go up to an altissimo G or something before it really started to sound piercing. It finally dawned on me that a fat sound on trumpet somehow diminished the impact of the highness of the note. Took all the excitement away. Erskine's band had a crackling excitement, and mainly because the trumpet players had a thin sound: it was great.

"From Detroit we went to ReadingPennsylvania. My father was working for a company that made an alloy of beryllium and copper. It was valuable because it's non-sparking and they can make tools for working around refineries or any place where sparks are dangerous. It's also unaffected by altitude or temperature. When I finally got a saxophone and clarinet, I wanted him to make me a set of springs, because that alloy never wears out, but he never did.

"I worked at that plant one summer as the mailboy. I saved my money and bought my first clarinet. I went to a teacher at the music store where I bought it and went through the exercises with the books. Sammy Correnti: a wonderful man. Sammy also transcribed a lot of the players he had known in the '20s and '30s.

"One day after I'd been taking lessons with Sammy for a while, he brought in an arrangement he had written in the early '30s on a piece called "Dark Eyes," written for three brass, three saxes, and three rhythm - two altos and a tenor, two trumpets and a bone. He said, 'Here, take this revoice it for four brass and four saxes.' I did. His attitude was, 'You can do this, so do it.' It wasn't 'You can't do it.'

"We had these things to learn, jazz choruses. I learned Artie Shaw's' Concerto for Clarinet' solo and his solo on 'Stardust."'

"Just about every reed player I ever met learned that 'Stardust' solo," I said. "Billy Mitchell told me he could still play it. Did you start working while you were in Reading?"

"Yeah. I started working professionally in Reading. I put together a quartet in high school. My brothers had a good time driving us around to our gigs, because all of us in my group were too young to drive. I was back there a few years ago. I went out to the church where we used to play for dances.

"But I wanted to have a big band. So I started collecting stock arrangements. Then they used to do manuscript charts of various bands. I had things from Les Brown's band, from this band and that band. We used to get gigs. I'd get these guys together and rehearse. Then it would be a mad thing. The band would be playing from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in a gymnasium some place, and my brothers would be racing back and forth. This guy could make it from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., then they'd have to pick up his replacement.

"In Reading there was a piano player named Dave Stevens, who played with one of the studio bands in Philadelphia. I was a sophomore in high school, but I was playing with the professionals in town.

"Pennsylvania was a blue-law state, which meant that no entertainment was allowed on Sundays: no movies, no stage shows, no nothing. But it was all legal in private clubs, so private clubs proliferated all over Pennsylvania, which meant that there was work for musicians in Pennsylvania when work was dying out everywhere. I remember we played the Fifth Ward Democratic, the Third Ward Republican, the Polish American, the Irish American. Name it, all the ethnic groups in town, the labor unions, and they all had their own clubs and each one of them would hire a band, and a couple of them even had big bands. The Eagles had a thirteen- or fourteen-piece band. That was the most desirable one in town. I used to play in the band at the Orioles. These were good musicians I played with: I was very lucky."

I said, "Well this bears on what Bill Challis told me. He said that in the'20s, around Wilkes Barre, the musicians played dances in clubs. The coal barons had their clubs, the miners had their clubs, and the miners loved to dance. And when you think of all the musicians who came out of Pennsylvania, all the guys who came out of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the Dorsey brothers, Benny Golson, Henry Mancini, Billy Strayhorn, Red Rodney, it's a remarkable list."

"That may well have been a factor," Gerry said. "The blue laws and the clubs. Not only that, after the war, when work started to fall off for musicians, there still was that outlet in Pennsylvania for professional musicians."

I said, "Artie Shaw told me that in the heyday of the bands, you could play a solid month of one-nighters in Pennsylvania."

"Hmm. Well, those are all things that are impossible for people nowadays to understand. How many bands there were. There really was a lot of music available."

"What came after Reading?"

"From Reading, we moved to Philadelphia, and I found myself in West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys. About 2,000 boys, and no girls. That was the first time I had encountered that, and I hated it. Especially because down the street two blocks was the girls' school, and they started rehearsing their symphony orchestra in October for a concert in April. Envy again. There was no music in the school I was in.

"Dave Stevens of Reading had told me to go down to see Johnny Warrington, who had the house band at radio station WCAU. I took myself down to WCAU and saw Johnny. Now I think what kind of bemusement it must have fostered in him, to have this junior high-school kid come in and say, 'I want to write for your band.'

"And sure enough, he assigned a piece to me and said, 'Make me an arrangement of this. It will be for our Saturday night show.' I took the piece and spent a couple of weeks writing the arrangement. I brought it back. He went over it with me and he said, 'Well, let's see, you could have done this, you could have done that. Why didn't you do that here? Take it back and rewrite it and bring it back.' So I'd lucked into a teacher, somebody who helped. And he bought it and played it and assigned me something else.

"But the way that I got it written was even wilder. I really hated the school. There were a couple of teachers I liked and a couple of subjects that were fascinating. I had looked forward to chemistry as being probably an interesting subject, because you had laboratory work and it would be fun doing experiments. I had a teacher who ruined it for me. He spoke in a monotone, and he was a very dull man, and I remembered nothing.

"The school was taught by Christian brothers. Brother Martin was in charge of the band. When I transferred into this school and talked to Brother Martin, he never even asked me or even suggested that I play with the marching band. He explained that the marching band was not very good. The guys only went out for the band to get a letter and go to the ball games free. He said, 'The facilities are here. Any time you want to use the band room, it's yours.'

"Because it was such a big school, we had staggered lunch breaks. There were four lunch breaks. I had one of my own and three others. I started a band out of what I could get out of this marching band. I would have one of them come to my class and say, 'Brother Martin wants Gerry Mulligan in the band room.' So I would spend three out of the four lunch breaks in the band room, writing my chart for WCAU."

I said, "People forget that aside from the radio networks, which not only used to broadcast the big bands but had symphony orchestras on staff, even local radio stations employed bands, and pianists, and small groups. They generated their own music. They didn't just play records, as they do now. Radio was a tremendous generative force for music."

"Oh yeah. And given the opportunity, bands in all kinds of work tried to do their best. That's not to say all bands were good. There were a lot of sloppy bands around. But the best of them, which was a lot of them, were always trying to make music better. We always felt we could learn something, try something. So it was a good time for bands, all through the '30s and '40s.

"This brings up one of the areas where musicians got into a wrongful kind of relationship to the rest of the society, because of the attitude of the musicians' union. The union started in Chicago, and it was very much like a gangster organization, the way it went about doing things. For instance, their attitude in a town like Philadelphia. They would go into a radio station like WCAU and say, 'How many musicians do you employ?' The station might say something like, 'We employ ten.' And the union would say, 'All right, from now on you employ thirteen. How much are you paying them?' And the station might say, 'We're paying 75 dollars a week.' And the union might say, 'From now on you're paying 100.' It was done without discussion, it was: This is the way it's going to be or we'll pull the music out altogether.

"You'd be surprised how many radio stations said, 'Well, screw it.' And they got rid of the musicians. Those kinds of practices, I think, did musicians a great disservice. It made an antagonistic relationship that was harmful and wrong. And of course Petrillo, who was very much a dictatorial type, arbitrarily, against the advice of many people in the union, including the bandleaders, pulled the recording ban. That was the coup de grace for the big bands. Of all the times when he pulled it, when the guys were coming back from the service and needed all the help they could get!"

"But you still had WCAU and Johnny Warrington," I said. "Were you still in high school?"

"Yeah. In fact, at the school, I decided to put a band together. There were a lot of clarinet players in the marching band. There was only one kid who had a saxophone. I went and bought an alto so I would have at least two saxophones. We had a bunch of trumpets and we had one kid who played decent trombone. I wrote arrangements for the band, using this instrumentation. It came out sounding like Glenn Miller, because it was heavy on the clarinets. But because of that, I made something happen in the school, and we became the heroes that year, playing at various schools, playing at their assemblies. We even went down and played at the girls' school. So I suppose the girls' school was envious that we had a dance band and they only had a symphony orchestra.

"I went into the senior year. Chemistry had been destroyed for me, and I was bored to tears by the rest of the school. In senior year they had physics. They had lecture classes: it was like college - you're a big kid now. I go into the lecture room for the first thing on physics, and who have I got? The same guy who ruined chemistry for me. My mind did a trick on me that day, and I realized it started this at other times and it frightened me. Have you ever forgotten how to do something automatic, like tying your shoes or tying your tie? I watched this man. His lips were moving but I forgot what words meant. I totally lost the connection with language. I got up at the end of the class and went down to the office of the school and said, 'I'm leaving school. I have my father's permission. I'm going on the road with a band.'

"I didn't have a job and I didn't have my father's permission. I went to see Brother Martin, who didn't try to talk me into staying. He's one of the people I wish I'd had sense enough to keep contact with. He must have been a remarkable man. He didn't do any of the judgmental things that all the other grown-ups I remember from childhood did. He really treated me like a human being with the intelligence to try find my own way and as someone determined to find my own way.

"I went home and told my family what I was doing. My father didn't put up a big argument because, I think, he had lost his taste for trying to direct us. And obviously I was so far removed from his ideal of engineer that I didn't even warrant consideration.

"I thought unkindly in later years that he was probably relieved: he wouldn't have to think about paying to send me to college of any kind.

"I really would have liked to go to music school, but I never even broached the subject with him. I knew it was out of the question. That's what I mean by anti-intellectualism. I don't understand having that kind of an attitude toward your own kid. I never was that way with my own son, and can't be that way with young people."

(Gerry had one child, Reed, a son by his first and brief marriage to Arlene Brown, daughter of Lew Brown, of the Henderson-Brown-DeSylva songwriting team.)

He said, "I like to help young people have whatever opportunities there are, in whatever ways I can, without pushing them, without telling them the way Sammy Correnti did with me.

"I was now out of school, with no job to go to. I had to get a job in a hurry so I didn't have to go back to school ignominiously.

"I had met an agent named Jimmy Tyson. He was the agent for Alex Bartha, who had been the bandleader on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City for maybe fifteen years. What I didn't know was that every year he had this desire to take the band on the road and be a name band. I was infected with that! He promised he was going to take me on the road with him. Great! This was the job I thought I had. So I went down to see the agent. Jimmy said, 'Alex has been saying that for years. He's not going to take a band on the road.'

"And I thought, Oh God. I parked myself in the office of Jimmy Tyson's agency and waited for somebody to call up. Every band that came through to play at the Earle Theater, somebody would call up and say, 'I need a trombone player,' or something. And I would hear Jimmy say, 'Do you need a tenor or alto player? I was playing tenor and alto then. And nobody ever did.

"Then Tommy Tucker came to the Earle. Same thing. He didn't need a saxophone player. So Jimmy said, 'Well do you need an arranger? And Tommy Tucker said, 'Send him around, let me talk to him.' So I met Tommy Tucker backstage at the theater. He gave me a try. He signed me to a contract, 100 dollars a week for two jump or three ballad arrangements. Ballads being fewer pages than the jump tunes. Copied: I had to do all the copying."

Mulligan's career detour through the Tommy Tucker band has occasionally raised eyebrows: it seems somewhat incongruous.

The band, whose radio broadcasts began with the signature announcement, "It's Tommy Tucker Time!", was in that group that drew votes in the Down Beat poll's King of Corn category, usually won by Guy Lombardo. To the hip fans of the bands, that is to say those who thought they were hip (or, in those days, hep) there was a sharp division between the "jazz" and "mickey" bands, the latter including such as Blue Barron, Freddy Martin, Sammy Kaye, Russ Morgan, Kay Kyser, Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm, Lawrence Welk, and Wayne King. But to the professionals, the demarcation was not that sharp. I know saxophone players who thought Freddy Martin was a fine tenor player, and Benny Carter told me that one of his favorite saxophone players was Wayne King, not because what King did was jazz but because it was excellent saxophone playing.

Mulligan too has this breadth of view, and I was always baffled by his stated admiration for the Guy Lombardo band, which he shared with Louis Armstrong. I was baffled, that is, until I actually saw the band in the 1970s and got to know Guy late in his life. I realized with a start, after only a tune or two from the band in person, that what I was hearing was a museum piece: an authentic, unchanged, perfectly preserved 1920s tuba-bass dance band. And it did what it did extremely well. It was, as Gerry had always insisted, a damned good band.

Many of the "mickey" - meaning Mickey Mouse - bands contained excellent musicians, and some of them, including the bands of Kay Kyser and Sammy Kaye, could play creditable swing on occasion. Some excellent arrangers cut their professional teeth in those bands. George Duning, for example, wrote for Kay Kyser. And for a short time, Gerry Mulligan wrote for Tommy Tucker.

Gerry said, "That was my first experience on the road with a name band as an arranger. That was 1945, I guess, and that would make me 17 going on 18. It was the last year of the war. We traveled by cars. When we hit a town, I would be out of the car like a shot and into the hotel. Is there a room with a piano? It was always a search for a piano. And I never managed to make the three ballads or two jumps a week. But I got pretty close, wrote a lot of music for Tommy. It was a three-month contract.

"We did a lot of one-nighters. We did a month or six weeks or something at a big hotel in Chicago. I was a pig in mud. All the bands were coming through. Billy Eckstine's band came to a downtown theater, with Dizzy playing trumpet with him. Earl Hines had a great band. Artie came through and Lena Horne was singing with him.

"My arrangements for Tommy started to get more and more wild, although I think Tommy liked what I did. There's one thing of mine on a Hindsight record, taken from an aircheck. It's called 'Brass Hats.' I used plungers and hats. Years later, when I heard this thing, I fell off my chair, because I had copied Erskine Hawkins'  'After Hours.' I didn't mean to copy it, but it was very close.

"After the three months, Tommy said, 'It's been very nice, and you've done a lot of good things for the band, but I think you're ready to move on to another band because I think my band is a little too tame for you. I want you to know, Gerry, that if you ever want to go into business or anything like that, I really would be glad to help you - in anything except a band.'

"I never got to see Tommy after he retired, and then I found out a few years ago where he was, because a lot of friends went to Sarasota and saw him. I no sooner found out where he was than I read that he had died. I did call up his widow, a lovely woman. They were great people, and he was good to me.

"That's one thing I was lucky about. The men that I worked for were such nice people: Tommy Tucker, Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill, Elliot Lawrence.

"After I left Tommy, I went back to Philadelphia. Johnny Warrington was no longer at WCAU. Elliot Lawrence had taken over. Elliot had been kind of a child star in Philadelphia. He had been the bandleader on the Horn and Hardart kiddies' hour. He kind of grew into the bandleader job."

And Mulligan began to write for Elliot Lawrence. In the 1950s, some of the writing he did for Lawrence was re-recorded in an album for Fantasy.

"It was all right," Gerry said of that album. "But it wasn't as good as some of the performances the band did at the time. Once, at a rehearsal, they played some of my music so perfectly that it made my hair stand on end. There was a unison trombone passage. The Swope brothers were in the trombone section. The section sounded like one trombone, the unison was so perfect."

Gerry was born on 6 April 1927. Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong had not yet made their pioneering records. The Duke Ellington band would not open at the Cotton Club for another eight months. Though the Paul Whiteman band was immensely popular, the so-called big-band era had not dawned. Benny Goodman was still with Ben Pollack. The Casa Loma Orchestra would not make its first recording for another two years. And network radio had just come into being. Some people still owned crystal radios.

Like Gerry, I grew up, ear to the radio, on the sounds of the big bands in the  1930s. Network radio was an incredible cultural force, presenting - live, not on records - music of immense cultural diversity, almost every kind of music that America produced, and making it popular. Network radio made Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman famous and, a little later, Glenn Miller. It made Arturo Toscaninii and James Melton household names. On Saturday afternoons, the broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera could be heard everywhere from the Mexican border to the northern reaches of Canada.

How long jazz has been with us depends on how you define jazz. If you refer to Buddy Bolden's music, which you have never heard (nor has anyone else) or Scott Joplin's rags, as jazz, then it begins early in the century. Others would call this earlier music proto-jazz. But jazz begins at least by the late teen years of the twentieth century. If you define it even more strictly as the art of the great, improvising soloist, then it begins in the 1920s, and its principal founding figure is Louis Armstrong. As Dizzy Gillespie said of Armstrong, "No him, no me."

So if you accept Armstrong as the defining figure, then jazz was, as Bud Freeman used to argue, born in Chicago in the 1920s. Gerry Mulligan was born with jazz, just before the big-band era.

The big-band era lasted roughly ten years, from 1936 to 1946, when the major orchestras began to disband. If you want to push it back to the 1920s, with Whiteman, Goldkette, and early Ellington, then it is longer. And its influence persists, with the fundamental format of trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and rhythm section still in use. The evolution of that instrumentation is like that of the string quartet or the symphony orchestra: it works, and will live on. But as a vital part of America's commercial entertainment, the era has long since ended.

It was an era, as Woody Herman used to say, when "jazz was the popular music of the land."

Many years ago, Gerry said to me that the wartime gasoline tax had helped kill the big bands. And a thought occurred to me: I said, "Wait a minute, Gerry, the kids who supported the bands didn't have cars, and since they weren't making them during the war, our fathers certainly were not inclined to lend theirs." And it was precisely during the war years that the bands were most successful, even though many of the best musicians were in the armed forces. The dance pavilions and ballrooms were packed during those years with teenagers and uniformed servicemen and their girlfriends.

How did we get to the ballrooms and dance pavilions? On street railways and the inter-urban trolleys. And the street railways and trolley lines were bought up and dismantled by business elements whose purpose was to drive the public into automobiles and buses: this helped kill the ballrooms.

And network radio was dying as the broadcasting industry discovered how awesomely lucrative television advertising could be, and to the purpose of attracting ever larger audiences began seeking the lowest common denominator of public taste.

When the big-band era ended and the musicians went into nightclubs to play in small groups, their admirers followed them, for they were now over 21 and could go to places where liquor was served. But a younger audience could not follow them. A few nightclubs tried to solve the problem. Birdland had a bleachers section where young people could sit without drinking liquor. But this was at best a Band-aid, if you'll pardon the pun, and knowing the names of the musicians was no longer an "in" thing for young people. They were turning at first to "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window" and "Tennessee Waltz," then to "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Hound Dog." The Beatles were coming.

The exposure of jazz to a new, young audience was restricted. Thus you will find that by far the largest part of its audience today comprises older people. There are some young admirers, to be sure, and they always give one hope. But the music is hard to find; they must seek it out. It is no longer common in the culture. It is not on the radio in most areas. And fewer and fewer radio stations are presenting jazz. When I met Gerry Mulligan in 1960, he was only 33 years old. I know lists are boring, but I would ask you to read this one: Pepper Adams, Nat and Cannonball Adderley, Gene Ammons, Benny Bailey, Dave Bailey, Chet Baker, Kenny Barron, Keter Betts, Ruby Braff, Bob Brookmeyer, Ray Brown, Ray Bryant, Monty Budwig, Larry Bunker, Kenny Burrell, Frank Butler, Donald Byrd, Conte Candoli, Frank Capp, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Sonny Clark, Jimmy Cleveland, Jimmy Cobb, Al Cohn, John Coltrane, junior Cook, Bob Cranshaw, Bill CrowKenny Davern, Arthur Davis, Miles Davis, Richard Davis, Alan Dawson, Willie Dennis, Gene DiNovi, Eric Dolphy, Lou Donaldson, Kenny Drew, Allen Eager, Jon Eardley, Don Ellis, Booker Ervin, Bill Evans, Art and Addison Farmer, Joe Farrell, Victor Feldman, Maynard Ferguson, Clare Fischer, Tommy Flanagan, Bob Florence, Chuck Flores, Med Flory, Carl Fontana, Vernel Fournier, Russ Freeman, Dave Frishberg, Curtis Fuller, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Urbie Green, Gigi Gryce, Jim Hall, Slide Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Jake Hanna, Roland Hanna, Barry Harris, Hampton Hawes, Louis Hayes, Jimmy and Tootie Heath, Billy Higgins, Bill Holman, Paul Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Dick Hyman, Frank Isola, Chuck Israels, Ahmad Jamal, Clifford Jordan, Richie Kamuca, Connie Kay, Wynton Kelly, Charlie Kennedy, Jimmy Knepper, Lee Konitz, Teddy Kotick, Steve Kuhn, Steve Lacy, Scott LaFaro, Pete La Roca, Lou Levy, Mel Lewis, Melba Liston, Booker Little, Dave McKenna, Jackie McLean, Mike Mainieri, junior Mance, Johnny Mandel, Herbie Mann, Warne Marsh, Don Menza, Jymie Merritt, Billy Mitchell, Blue Mitchell, Dwike Mitchell, Grover Mitchell, Red Mitchell, Hank Mobley, Grachan Moncour, J. R. Monterose, Buddy Montgomery, Jack Montrose, Joe Morello, Lee Morgan, Sam Most, Paul Motian, Dick Nash, Oliver Nelson, Jack Nimitz, Sal Nistico, Marty Paich, Horace Parlan, Sonny Payne, Gary Peacock, Duke Pearson, Ralpha Pena, Art Pepper, Walter Perkins, Charlie Persip, Oscar Peterson, Nat Pierce, Al Porcino, Bill Potts, Benny Powell, Seldon Powell, Andr6 Previn, Joe Puma, Gene Quill, Jimmy Raney, Frank Rehak, Dannie Richmond, Larry Ridley, Ben Riley, Red Rodney, Mickey Roker, Sonny Rollins, Frank Rosolino, Roswell Rudd, Willie Ruff, Bill Russo, Don Sebesky, Bud Shank, Jack Sheldon, Sahib Shihab, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Andy Simpkins, Zoot Sims, Jack Six, Jimmy Smith, Victor Sproles, Alvin Stoller, Frank Strazzeri, Ira Sullivan, Grady Tate, Arthur Taylor, Toots Thielemans, Edmund Thigpen, Bobby Timmons, Cal Tjader, Ross Tompkins, Cy Touff, Nick Travis, Stanley Turrentine, McCoy Tyner, Leroy Vinnegar, Cedar Walton, Wilbur Ware, Randy Weston, Bob Wilber, Phil Wilson, Jimmy Woode, Phil Woods, Reggie Workman, Eugene Wright, and Leo Wright. What do they have in common? They were all actively performing in the United States in 1960, the year I met Gerry. And they were all under the age of 35. And that is by no means a complete list.

Max Roach, Sonny Stitt, Terry Gibbs, Sarah Vaughan, Paul Desmond, and Shorty Rogers were 36, and other major figures, such as Dave Brubeck, Milt Jackson, and John Lewis were under 40. Indeed, if you add to the list all those under 40 who were at the peak of their powers, factor in all those who were not well known to a national public, such as Gene Allen, Wayne Andre, and Phil Bodner, all the excellent jazz players of Chicago, such as Jodie Christian, Eddie Higgins, and Larry Novak, whose names have never made it into the encyclopedias, and then remember that almost all the pioneering and founding figures, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Don Redman, Benny Carter, and Earl Hines, as well as such lesser figures as Frank Signorelli, were alive, you see that the depth of jazz in the United States in that year was astounding. The problem is that we took it for granted, and looked on genius as a commonplace.

By comparison, the current jazz revival is very shallow indeed and merely imitative. This is not to say that there are no excellent young players. But none of these figures is original, and whereas the Ellington music was a constant adventure in innovation and the bands of the 1940s were ceaselessly pushing into the future, all that is now embalmed in jazz repertory programs that concentrate on the music and styles of the past. The jazz of the past has become, truly, a classical music, disinterred from its original context.

You start to wonder if jazz has at last run its creative course, as Oscar Peterson a few years ago predicted it soon would. Not that the new reconstituted food doesn't contain nourishment for a younger audience that is just now discovering jazz. But it hasn't much savor to those who grew up in its great age of innovation and remember its unmistakable individualists. And Gerry Mulligan lived through almost the entire history of jazz. It is against that background that he should be understood[Emphasis, mine.]

To jazz musicians, of course, the question "Where is jazz going?" has always been anathema. But a new question arises: "Where has jazz gone?" I put it to Gerry. He replied: "Where jazz has gone relates to where the country has gone. It's pretty hard to separate the progress of one without taking the other into consideration.

"There are a number of things going on in our society that we wonder how they're going to turn out. We have no way of knowing what the effects are because we've become a society of guinea-pigs, trying out new technologies. We've had a whole century of it, and God knows where we are. A rather precarious psychic state. By that I mean the numbers of things that have changed, not just in the ways people live but in the ways their minds work.

"I've been conscious of it lately because, doing university level courses of jazz history, I've found it's very hard to get people to imagine the world that musicians inhabited in 1910 as compared to now. It's hard for people to imagine how different everyone's life was, how life must have been before there was artificial music being thrown at them from every side. All along the way, there were the good and bad accumulations of the various technologies and the industries that grew out of them and the effects that they've had. Many of the effects of the phonograph record and radio were the very elements that made jazz develop the way it did; they probably were responsible for making it into an art form and not just being forgotten as an offshoot of popular music, something of a passing character.

"There were, even early in the century, statements that jazz was immoral and would lead to the breakdown of society as we know it." He laughed. "Listen, with the outcome we see, the state of our popular music, they may well have been right.

"However, I make a big distinction between what jazz was and is and what's going on in popular music.

"At this end of the game, where big business is involved with exploiting
whatever available audiences there are - and you usually start with the kids now - they've affected people's thinking about what music is, what music should do, how music should be used, and what music sounds like. So, unless you take the one into consideration, you can't figure out the other.

"Sometimes, of course, I wonder if it's just the usual generational sour grapes. A young generation comes along and they tend to put down what you're doing. You look at 'em with a kind of jaundiced eye and say, 'Well, young whipper-snappers, in my day they said jazz was an immoral music and now they're saying it about rock.' After you examine that, one has to carry through to what has happened to the content and the intent of popular music. Two elements come to mind. One is the music itself, which, a great deal of the time, as you know if you ever see MTV, is calculated as a destructive force, breaking down the good old enemies, the middle class, the bourgeoisie, and all of those causes of all our troubles. It's a music that's based on raw emotion, or at least the illusion of raw emotion. This is very prevalent in that music, easy ecstasy. There's the matter of volume: if you do it loud enough it sounds like you're having fun. And distortion. The day that somebody discovered the intensity that happens to the sound of a guitar when you over amplify it, they created a new world of easy access to excitement. You don't have to work for it, you don't have to think about it, you don't have to develop a craft, man. It's there, it's built into the vacuum tubes and the transistors. The equipment.

"Then there is the actual content of the words. We see a couple of generations that have grown up on a dissatisfaction, a disaffection, with the society that produced them. You only have to watch sitcoms to realize that the parents are always bumbling idiots and the children are all smart-talking, wise-cracking little bastards. So we've got an odd view of what our culture is and should be. These forces don't give a damn. The people who are exploiting our kids don't care about the effect. In fact they'll fight to the death to prove to you that violence on television doesn't have anything to do with violence in the streets.

"If people are so busy convincing themselves of nonsense like that, how can you persuade them to assume responsibility for anything? This has become the key to our time. It's always: 'It's not my fault.' We have become a nation of victims. It's always somebody else's damn fault. This is what has led to all this political correctness crap. You mustn't hurt anybody's feelings! Bullshit, man. What has that got to do with the real world?"

"The television people," I said, "try to convince you that their commercials can alter public behavior by selling products, but the entertainment part of their programming can't. It's a contradiction in their position. It's nonsense."

"Well," Gerry said, "there's a lot of the texture of our social structure that is just as contradictory. This is why you can't say what is going to happen to jazz without observing the society that produces it.

"There are a couple of things that have come out of the educational things I have done. I've been very interested to learn how it appears to other people, usually younger than I am. People come to some of these college classes because they want to go to school or they're interested in the subject. But a lot of it has to do with students who are looking for an easy credit." He laughed.

"It's fascinating to see how people react to their own time, to see how aware they are that they're being ripped off, to see whether anything can be done about it, or to contemplate the future. There is a lot of questioning about where we're going. We see immense changes going on in the United States and don't know what to make of it all.

"One thing I do know: in the States, people are terribly insular. jazz musicians, a lot of us, travel around the world a lot, so we see a great deal more of the world than the average Statesider. We come home and realize that people have a very, very unrealistic view of the world. We're politically awfully naive, and we are being manipulated at all points by the press and various other special-interest groups. It's an oddity. I don't know whether to worry about the suppression and repression from the right or the left or whether just to accept them both as the enemy equally and try to protect my niche in the middle. Because I know that I am the enemy. Anyone who walks the middle ground is gonna have very strong enmity from both sides."

I mentioned that Nat Hentoff had written a new book whose subtitle is: "How the left and the right relentlessly censor each other."

Gerry said, "That's interesting that a writer like Nat should arrive at that, because when he was first writing, he was very much a writer of the left. My feeling was always: I don't care what color the uniform is and I don't care whether your ideology is leftist or rightist, man, when you come around and tell me what I can and can't do, it amounts to the same thing. I don't care if you're beating me up in the name of Lenin or Hitler, it hurts with the same kind of bruise."

I said, "I met someone to whom that actually happened, a Hungarian symphony conductor, I can't think of his name. He told me, 'I've had my nose broken twice, once by the Nazis and once by the Communists, and it felt exactly the same both times."'

"Perfect. I sometimes wonder if this is why Americans have dedicated themselves to such sloppy dress. Dress styles today have gotten to the point of grotesque. A lot of these things, it's very hard for me to get a grasp on. You read the expensive magazines and you see the advertisements of the expensive companies. Giorgio Armani, he's got these beautiful young men lying out on the beach - with torn jeans! Wait a minute, man? What are you trying to sell here?"

"Torn jeans," I said.

"Anything to be in!" Gerry said. "It's a peculiar time. But then I wonder what it must have been like to live through some of the strange transition periods of cities or countries. Germany in the '20s must have been an insane place to be. And then in the '30s, the insanity came out of the closet. There have been a lot of times like that, the idiocies. Look at Bosnia. What must it be like for intelligent people to live through this? Or Argentina under the colonels? We've had such insane things happen in the world. And I wonder why. Why? Why do people want to do that to each other?

"The Puritans of New England would meet strangers at the city limits, and if they were Quakers or Catholics, they'd grab them and put them to the stake, because they were heretics. And always with the admonition, 'I'm going to burn you at the stake, but understand, this is for your own good."'

I said, "You've got the same thing with the anti-abortion people on an overpopulated planet, what I call the kill-for-life crowd."

"Absolutely!" Gerry said. "It's taking on the kind of ridiculous stature that one would expect. This is why the whole movement for political correctness is a dangerous thing.

"It is the justification of the suppression of other people's rights and opinions in what appears to them to be a good cause. And I say, 'Whatever reason you burn me at the stake, I'm sorry, the cause is not good enough."'

I said, "We can't talk about jazz alone, I agree. We have to talk about the evolution of the big bands, the movie industry, network radio, which were all interlinked. Bands on radio, bands in the movies, playing songs from Broadway shows. Network radio, which young people today cannot grasp, was a major linking force in the American culture. . .

"Absolutely," Gerry said.

" . . . whereas later, disc jockey radio became a force of destruction."

"Absolutely. That's exactly what I'm talking about. The effect of radio in the early days, when it was still struggling to find its audience and find itself, was good. But the man who invented Top Forty radio. . .

"Todd Storz of New Orleans," I said.

"I'd rather not know his name," Gerry said. "I'd rather think of him as someone anonymous hanging by this thumbs somewhere."

"No, he's probably swinging in a penthouse. Or a mansion."

"It's rather remarkable," Gerry said. "He succeeded in destroying radio and music with one idea."

When I was at Down Beat, I met all the founding figures of jazz, most of whom were still alive. I had conversations with Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman, Ben Webster, Benny Carter, and many more. But Gerry not only knew them all, he recorded with a great many of them. What Gerry and I know of early jazz history comes largely from the people who made it.

I said, "When our generation is gone, there will be no more direct oral links. Future writers will be getting it all from secondary sources, such as newspaper and magazine clippings and previous books, some of the material very unreliable and sometimes downright wrong."

Gerry said: "I remember John Lewis and I walking down 55th Street
one day. We'd just left Gil Evans' place. John said, 'Gerry, there's one thing you've got to understand. Jazz as you and I know it and love it will die with our generation.' And I of course reacted with indignation, saying, 'How can you say that, John?' He just smiled like the sphinx and said, 'Remember this. We grew up playing with these men. We've had the chance to sit and play with them as professionals, we traveled with them, we know them, and knew how they thought and arrived at it. After we're gone, it will all be hearsay and records."'

I said, "Bill Crow told me once that the older musicians told him that on record sessions in the 1920s, drummers had to back off, because if they played hard, it would jump the cutting needle. So we can't really know how those rhythm sections sounded live."

"Sure," Gerry said. "Because of these lectures I've been giving, I've been doing a lot of listening to old things, in some cases to records I'd never heard before. I've become very conscious of what those drummers were doing. A lot of those dates through the'20s were done with brushes, brushes on a telephone book, anything to make an illusion of propulsion without knocking the needle off track. You seldom could hear the bass, which is mostly, I think, why the guys used tuba or bass saxophone, 'cause they had to be heard."

"Rollini, for one."

"Rollini was already into something else. He was a line player. I didn't remember hearing him. I probably did when I was a kid, because I listened to all those bands on the radio every night, and Rollini played with a couple of bands I remember hearing. But later on I had a record of Red Nichols' band, with Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet, Miff Mole on trombone, Adrian Rollini on bass sax, Joe Sullivan on piano, and I think it was Davey Tough on drums. There were two sides of an old ten-inch that Ion Eardley gave me. He said his father had made a copy for me. And it was 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.' The first side starts out as a slow thing, with Joe Sullivan playing it as a kind of a blues piece. And you turn it over and they take it up and make it into a swing piece. And Adrian Rollini plays an entrance to his chorus on it, which knocked me over, because it sounds so much like an entrance of Charlie Parker's on 'Blues for Norman,' recorded on one of the Granz tours." Gerry sang the Parker passage. "It was almost the same phrase that Adrian had played on that record."

"Do you think he might have heard it?"

"That could be, because Bird was all ears when he was a kid."

"He said he hired Chet Baker because his playing reminded him of Bix."

I loved Louis's comment when he heard Bix. I have to paraphrase. He said they were aiming for the same thing. Which seemed very odd to people, because their styles were so totally different."

I said, "Everybody talks about how pretty Bix played. But he had a real sting on the edge of his tone."

"Oh yeah. But we can only have the impression we get from the records. This is something I was very conscious of, listening to the records he made with Frankie Trumbauer. Those were intricate arrangements. And they were intended to be - highly sophisticated music. And again, they suffered because they had to hold the rhythm section back. So it's likely that those things neither sounded nor felt quite the way they do on the records. Bix's sense of style and form alone were obviously unique. I would love to have heard his sound.

"You know, Bird had an incredible ability to sail through pretty complicated progressions, especially if the progressions were going somewhere not just a sequence of chords, but a true progression. I was listening to some Tatum records the other day and it suddenly dawned on me: I wonder how much time 
Bird spent listening to Tatum? Because Tatum could do that. He could do the damnedest transitions, and the damnedest alterations. It will make your hair stand on end! And even when he was doing it fast, it was such a remarkable sounding thing.

"Bird had a tremendous amount of facility in a lot of directions. He had so much facility, I've always thought he really didn't know what to do to survive. He didn't know how to be a beginner again. He needed to move on from where he was. It wasn't satisfying enough. And he became more and more frustrated. He loved a lot of different kinds of music. He loved things like Debussy's Children's Corner. Whenever he would come by Gil's place, he would want to listen to some parts of the Children's Corner."

"I was told he loved Prokofiev's Scythian Suite."

"Oh God yes! We were all hooked on the Scythian Suite. It was the Chicago Symphony, and it was a dynamite recording of it. It's a wonderful, dynamic piece. It was a youthful piece of Prokofiev's. There are a few pieces that different composers wrote around the time The Rite of Spring was written, but so much has been said about the outrage caused by The Rite of Spring, this supposedly chaotic music, that people didn't pay much attention to other pieces. And I think the Scythian Suite is one of those. But it's a piece that just swings relentlessly from beginning to end. It has a momentum, a forward propulsion to it, through all the movements, through tempo changes and everything. And that particular recording was very good. I've heard a lot of recordings of it since then, but it's impossible to get that one any more. Every time I see a recording of it, I buy it. But I'm always disappointed. I say,’ That’s the wrong tempo!' One man's opinion."

And he laughed at himself, as he was wont to do.

If some of those in the audience now in its forties, growing jaded with a rock and-roll that has now survived for 40 years - four times as long as the big band era - are discovering jazz and saying "Oh wow!" to young players whose every influence Mulligan and other older jazz musicians can instantly detect, that's all right. Imitative jazz will doubtless continue for some time.

But Gerry's generation lived through an era of innovators, Hines and Tatum and Wilson and Cole and Powell and Evans, Hawkins and Webster and Young, Armstrong and Berigan and James and Dizzy and Miles, Redman and Carter and Sauter and Evans, each with a thumbprint you could not miss. The experienced ear can detect Benny Carter in two bars; no one of the new generation has that kind of individuality.

I try to resist thinking about the 1960s, but sometimes I can't help it, and I remember all the friends Gerry and I have lost, including Zoot and Mel Lewis and Nick Travis and Willie Dennis, all of whom were in Gerry's Concert jazz Band.

When I wrote a piece about the end of the big-band era, which is in my book Singers and the Song, I used a phrase of Johnny Mercer's "Early Autumn" lyric. I called it "Pavilion in the Rain."

This essay, Gerry told me later, caused him to write a tune he called "I Heard the Shadows Dancing." Then Nancy Marano told Gerry she wanted to record the tune. Gerry called and asked me to put a lyric on it. And so I did. I remembered seeing abandoned pavilions on beaches and in parks, where the Ferris wheels no longer turned. I used those images in it.

Gerry was even slimmer than in his youth, but he wore a beard, and the strawberry blond hair had gone as white as paper. Did he have regrets? Who doesn't? I daresay he regretted that he and Miles Davis never got to do the tour they had planned to perform the Birth of the Cool music. Miles got sick, precluding it, and Gerry toured without him.

Another regret, apparently, was our abandoned Diamond Jim Brady project. A few years ago I asked if he still had the music. He had lost it. The lyrics? I lost them. The script? Gone.

"We should have finished it," he said on the phone one day.

Other regrets?

"I wish I'd gone to music school."

Then, in early November 1995, Gerry's current quartet went on a jazz cruise of the Caribbean on the SS Norway. For months rumors had been circulating that his health was failing rapidly. I heard he was undergoing chemotherapy in Boston. Gerry would tell me it was for treatment of a liver condition consequent of a case of hepatitis years ago.

Phil Woods was on the cruise, performing in the same week as Gerry's group. Phil and Gerry had had their collisions, both of them being very crusty Irishmen. Gerry once hired and fired Phil on the same evening, and at one point he called Phil an Irish drunk, which infuriated Phil at the time. As Phil said to me on the ship, "Talk about the pot calling the kettle green!" (In recent years, neither of them drank anything at all.) They reconciled, of course, and Phil is on the 1992 Re-birth of the Cool album Gerry did. Phil also said on the ship: "I love Gerry."

Johnny Mandel came along as a passenger, just to hang with his friends, and the week developed into that, a hangout of Mandel, Phil, Gerry, and me. But Gerry was very weak. His skin now had a transparent look: the veins in his hands stood out quite blue. And he was in a wheelchair much of the time, using a cane the rest of it.

There is a theater on that ship that I don't particularly like. It gives me what Woody Herman used to call the clausters. But I could not miss Gerry's performance there. He hobbled on-stage and sat on a stool. And the quartet began to play. It was one of the finest groups Gerry ever led. And it was some of the finest and most inventive playing I ever heard from Gerry in the 36 years of our friendship, not to mention the years long before we met, when his Us were high on the list of my favorite records.

The rapport of the group was amazing, particularly Gerry's telepathic communication with the outstanding pianist Ted Rosenthal. I was in awe of what I heard. It had a compositional integrity beyond anything I have ever heard in jazz. From anyone. I do not know what was going on in Gerry's mind, perhaps the atmospheric awareness of his mortality. It is not that his playing was abandoned, although it certainly was free: it was as if he had a total control of it that he had been seeking all his life. There was one piece that he played in which the byplay with Rosenthal left me with my jaw hanging down. I don't even know its name; one of Gerry's pieces. For certainly he was one of the greatest composers in the history of jazz, as well as its primary baritone soloist. Yes, I have known other baritone players who soloed well; but none of them had Gerry's immense compositional knowledge and instinct. So exquisite was the structure of what he, and bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Ron Vincent did, that, afterwards, I told him, "Gerry, I am not sure that this should any longer be called jazz. It seems to be some kind of new end-of-the-century improvised classical music." Franca told me later that he quoted that with pleasure several times.

There were to be two performances by the group that evening. Leaving the theater, I ran into Phil Woods and Johnny Mandel. Both of them felt as I did: they couldn't endure a second performance. Such was the tearing of emotions in two directions: ecstasy at the level of Gerry's music and agony at the frailty of his health. Next day he asked us all to come by his room. And we went up to the top deck. Gerry was never enamored of the sun: with his blond, now white, eyelashes, its glare bothered him. But we went up, and I took a camera. Franca photographed the four of us. There were days in the 1960s when you could have found the four of us together in Jim and Andy's bar in New York, one of the favorite hangouts of jazz musicians in the 1960s. Mandel and Gerry had been friends since they were habitués of that Gil Evans pad on
West 55th Street. As Franca took the pictures, I think we were thinking the same thing, that the four of us would never be together again.

On New Year's Eve, the last evening of 1995, he was cheerful and said he was feeling well and lectured me a little about taking care of my own health. Had I been fully alert, I would have realized that that call - warm and affectionate, more overtly so than was typical of Gerry - was a farewell. I later learned he had called Bill Holman, Johnny Mandel, and other friends about the same time.

On the morning of 20 January 1996, I received a telephone call from Franca. When I heard her voice, with its slight Italian accent, I asked, "How's Gerry?"

And Franca said quite softly, "Gerry's dead." She paused for a breath, then said, "He died a few hours ago." As she told me later, he slipped away between 10.45 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the night of 19 January.

I burst into tears at her words. Yes, yes, I should have known. He had been lying to all of us. Why didn't Gerry admit to his friends us that he had liver cancer? Perhaps he wanted no sympathy. When our close friend Paul Desmond was terminally ill with cancer, Gerry had kept me posted on his condition. It seems that all the highways to New York City's main airports run past cemeteries, and Paul left orders that he be cremated, saying with that sardonic wit of his that he didn't want to be a monument on the way to the airport. Perhaps Gerry didn't want to hear the hushed voice of solicitous inhibition in conversations with his friends. Whatever his reasons, he didn't reveal his true condition, and so I was at the same moment quite unsurprised and totally surprised by her news. Certainly I was shattered, and it was for more reasons than the loss of a friend. As you grow older, you get, if not inured, at least accustomed to such tidings.

But she had lost her husband, and I tried to control my feelings out of concern for her. Then she said, "Gerry always thought of you as his brother. He would say, 'I have to talk to Gene about this. He'll know what I mean."' And that only made matters worse; I cried quite helplessly after that. I wanted to get off the phone, but Franca wanted to talk, and the least I could do was listen.

She told me something Gerry had said to her that will remain with me as long as I live. He said, "A life without ethics is meaningless."

Gerry could be feisty; and he did not suffer fools gladly. But he was at heart a kind, warm man.

The best evaluation of Gerry that I saw in print after he died was a column by Robert Fulford in the Globe and Mail. He noted that Gerry's "boyish eagerness" made him always eager to participate in whatever kind of jazz was being played, and quoted Whitney Balliett's wonderful remark that Gerry would "sit in with a treeful of cicadas."

Fulford wrote of the first Mulligan quartet's "inventive charm and rueful humor." He said:

Over about seven years, the Mulligan quartets demonstrated that there were
more possibilities in jazz than anyone had imagined, not all of them necessarily momentous. His own tunes were amiably sophisticated essays, musical equivalents of James Thurber's stories or Ogden Nash's poems. The sounds Mulligan made colored their era. And when I heard the original records ... four days ago, they sounded as fresh as they did more than four decades ago.

Gerry Mulligan ... was a catalyst, a splendid performer who was also the cause
of splendid performances by others. John Lewis ... once remarked that Mulligan's influence was so vast and general that it became hard to spot. It melted into the music of the time, became part of the climate.

Yes. What began with Gil went out to the whole world. Including Brazil.

On that New Year's Eve 1995, Gerry told me how much he loved my lyric to "I Hear the Shadows Dancing." "It makes me cry," he said. The lyric is about the vanished big-band era that nurtured and shaped him.

On 12 February 1996, a memorial service was held in New York at Saint Peter's Church. It was titled A Celebration of the Life of Gerry Mulligan. Many of his old friends and musical associates, including Clark Terry, John Lewis, Chico Hamilton, Dave Grusin, Jackie and Roy Kral, Art Farmer, Bill CrowDave Bailey, Lee Konitz, and more, performed. George Shearing and Dave Brubeck, with whom Gerry had often toured, played piano solos. The speakers included George Wein, Herb Gardner, Elliot Lawrence, and Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

I couldn't be there. Franca arranged that the last song Gerry and I wrote be performed, the lyric he told me on New Year's Eve made him cry. It was sung by Annette Saunders, accompanied by Ted Rosenthal on piano. I realized later that I had written it on 13 February 1991, five years and one day earlier. The lyric goes:

A ferris wheel abandoned,
a silent roller coaster,
a peeling carousel
whose painted horses revolve no more.

Within a grove of willows,
in shadows made by moonlight,
a dance pavilion dreams,
its shutters fastened, the music gone.

It dreams of bygone dancers
Who filled the floor with motion
And fell in love to songs
that almost no one remembers now.

The ferris wheel reverses,
the carousel runs backwards.
The horses start to prance,
the roller coaster begins to roar.

Then softly from a distance
the blended sound of trumpets,
and saxophones and drums.
A wondrous music returns and then
I hear the shadows dancing once again.

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Gerry … was enormously knowledgeable and skilled in harmonic structure and chord changes — all of that. He could solo in a very linear fashion as well, but he may have wanted to play in a more vertical way because we didn't have a piano. He played the piano sometimes himself, and although he wasn't a great pianist, he knew what he wanted to do on the in­strument. On baritone he was amazing, but sometimes it was a little hard to play with him, especially on a double-time thing where he would blow so many notes that he would get behind the time. I would be scuffling along, try­ing to drag him with me, but that was because of that big, awkward horn he was playing. Unlike an alto or tenor, it takes a long time for the air to get through. I have great respect for him both as a writer and a player.”
- drummer Larry Bunker as told to author Gordon Jack

“… it was Gerry's inimitable presence that drove and de­fined the character and flavor of the group, and I loved working with it. I couldn't wait to get to work each night, because it was great being out there, totally exposed to the challenge of inventing melodically interesting bass lines, strong enough to eliminate harmonic ambiguity and simple enough to swing. I thrived on that challenge!

Of course Gerry's abilities as an accompanist were phenomenal, and he had that vast pool of ideas to draw upon, from all those years as an arranger. His forte was building spontaneous arrangements, because he was something of an architect. It was really exciting to walk a bass line and discover him moving along a tenth above, totally enhancing the whole effect. He always had his ears open and expected the same from his cohorts. With all due respect to the other guys, without Gerry's accompaniment, there is no Gerry Mulligan Quartet.”
- bassist Bob Whitlock as told to author Gordon Jack

“Mulligan was one of the quintessential jazz musicians of his genera­tion. As much as the silhouette of Dizzy and his upturned trumpet, the image of bone-thin Mulligan, tall enough to dominate the baritone, his hair country-boy red (before it turned great-prophet white) had an iconic familiarity.  … No musician in the postbop era was more adept at crossing boundaries. Though a confirmed mod­ernist credited with spreading the amorphous notion of cool jazz, he achieved some of his finest work in collaborations with his swing era idols Ben Webster and Johnny Hodges; he displayed a photograph of Jack Teagarden in his studio.

Mulligan fashioned a music in which all aspects of jazz commingle, from Dixieland two-beats and polyphony to foxtrot swing to modern harmonies, yet he remained something of an outsider, set apart by his devotion to certain not always fashionable musical principles, including lyricism and civility. By lyricism, I mean an allegiance to melody that, in his case, was as natural as walking. …

By civility, I mean his compositional focus on texture. Mulligan was chiefly celebrated as a baritone saxophonist, for good reason. He is the only musician in history to win a popular following on that instrument, the only one to successfully extend the timbre of Harry Carney and de­velop an improvisational style in the horn's upper range. … the baritone best expressed his warmth, humor, and unerring ear for sensuous fabrics of sounds. Yet he insisted he was less interested in playing solos than an ensemble music— even in the context of his quartet. He was, as he proved from the beginning of his career, a master of blending instruments.”
- Garry Giddins, Visions of Jazz

“Gerry Mulligan lived through almost the entire history of jazz. It is against that background that he should be understood.”
– Gene Lees

In compiling information from a number of highly regarded Jazz sources and configuring them into a five-part feature on Gerry Mulligan [you can locate the first, four pieces in the sidebar of the blog], it has been the intent of the editorial staff at JazzProfiles to create a broad outline for a comprehensive and critical [i.e.discerning] biography of Jeru and his music.

Over the span of this five-part feature, we have enlisted in the service of this cause, writings about Mulligan by such Jazz luminaries as [these are not listed in any particular order]: Gene Lees, Garry Giddins, Nat Hentoff, Bill CrowTed Gioia, Doug Ramsey, Bill Kirchner, Ira GitlerBob Gordon, Gunther Schuller, Pete Clayton, Burt Korall, Whitney Balliett, Michael Cuscuna, Dom Cerulli, Martin Williams and Alain Tercinet.

This listing is by no means exhaustive and no doubt excludes other important essays and articles about Gerry Mulligan.

Astoundingly and not withstanding the 100+ pages of manuscript contained in the five JazzProfiles Mulligan features and the fact that Gerry is the subject of a permanent exhibit at the Library of Congress, there remains no definitive book length treatment on the career and music of Gerry Mulligan!

Our thanks to Gordon Jack for allowing us to use his interview with Gerry in Part Five of our feature about one of the most influential figures in the history of Jazz.

Bill Crow, himself one of the subjects in Gordon Jack’s Fifties Jazz Talk, An Oral Perspective [LanhamMaryland: The Scarecrow Press, 2004, refers to Gordon, as “… one of the jazz world’s most skillful interviewers. He asks all the right questions and then gets out of the way, letting his subjects reveal themselves.”

I’m sure you will agree with Bill’s assessment after reading Gordon’s interview with Gerry Mulligan, who reveals things about himself and his career that I never knew before reading their 1994 talk.

[We have refrained from populating Gordon’s piece with photos as none were interspersed in the original chapter.]

Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Perspective [LanhamMaryland: The Scarecrow Press, 2004, pp. 143-153].

© -Gordon Jack/Scarecrow Press. Used with the author’s permission. Copyright protected, all rights reserved.

“Gerry Mulligan was born on April 6, 1927, in QueensNew York City. By the time he was seventeen, he was contributing arrangements to Johnny War­rington’s band for their broadcasts on WCAU, a local radio station in Philadelphia. Over the next few years his writing for Elliot Lawrence, Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill, Miles Davis, and Stan Kenton showed him to be one of the best of the young postwar generation of arrangers. Although he played in all those bands except for Kenton’s, he was far better known as a writer than as an instrumentalist. It was not until his move to California in 1952 and the formation of his first quartet that he really started to develop as a bari­tone soloist. We met on two occasions at his suite in London’s Ritz Hotel in May 1994, and we concentrated on his career until the demise of the Concert Jazz Band in 1964. I hoped to continue our discussion at a later date, but Gerry died on January 20, 1996.

In the late forties I played in a group with Kai Winding, Brew Moore, and George Wallington, in clubs like Bop City in New York. We also recorded quite a lot, and we visited Kansas City in 1947, which is where I first met Bob Brookmeyer, when he sat in on valve trombone. At the same time I was play­ing and writing for Elliot Lawrence, and I was featured in a quintet from within the band, with Phil Urso on tenor. When I wrote “Elevation” for Elliot, he claimed a joint‑composer credit, which was the convention with band­leaders in those days, but it was my tune. A little later that band became very good when he had Charlie Walp on lead trumpet with Ollie Wilson and the Swope brothers on trombone. Those guys were known as the “Washington brass section,” and Herbie Steward was there, too, on lead alto. I remember walking into a rehearsal when they were playing one of my charts, with Tiny Kahn on drums, and it was the first time I heard a big band make my things sound really great. The first time that happened with a small group was Georgie Auld’s little band, with Serge Chaloff and Red Rodney.

For the Miles Davis nonet I actually arranged seven of the twelve numbers that were recorded, although I have seen most of them credited to somebody else over the years. There were two other titles not included on the Birth of the Cool album, “S’il Vous Plait” and “Why Do I Love You?” which were John Lewis arrangements. You may have heard that Miles wanted another trumpet to play lead so that he could concentrate on soloing, but that is quite untrue. He didn’t want to know about another trumpeter, and remember, if we had someone else on lead, they would have phrased the band into another area. Miles wanted to do it his way, and I wanted him to do it his way. If you were writing for him in that band, you knew exactly where you were, and I only wish I had written more for it.’

A lot of these things seem easy in retrospect, because in 1992 we went on the road with the “Rebirth of the Cool” band and worked with those charts. That’s really why I did it, because I finally wanted an insight into those pieces, to see where we might have taken them. Before the tour I thought a lot about the in­strumentation, because I didn’t see any reason to be nailed to Miles’s nine-­piece. The Tentet arrangements I had from California, for instance, had mo trumpets and two baritones, and I liked the idea of two baritones. You can have them playing unison in the ensemble, and it’s like a cello section, which is fun I really wanted a baritone doubling clarinet, but finding somebody to do both became a problem. Ken Peplowski was supposed to be with us, and he was a nice guy and a beautiful player, but I didn’t want to push him into switching from tenor to baritone. Unfortunately on the day of rehearsal, he telephoned ill say that he’d been running for a plane at a small airport somewhere when he slipped on the wet tarmac and broke his ankle. That’s when I got Mark Lope­man, who is a fine musician, and he had done a lot of the transcribing for me.
Getting back to Miles’s band, we originally wanted to have Danny Polo or clarinet, but he was on the road with Claude Thornhill all the time. During most of the years of Thornhill’s success, he had two clarinets, Irving Fazola and Danny Polo, and they both had this great wood sound because they played “Albert” system. This was not “Benny Goodman” clarinet you know: we’re talking about something much darker and richer, which were the timbres we were looking for. Anyway, Gil Evans and I decided not to me‑s,, around with the clarinet if we couldn’t have Danny. Miles liked the idea Av having a singer, so he had his friend Kenny Hagood sing a couple of number, one of which, “Dam That Dream,” was recorded. For the 1992 “Rebirth” tour I rewrote that arrangement, although what I actually did was to finish it. because I wrote it in too much of a hurry for Miles. The other ballad we featured on the tour was “Good‑bye John,” which I dedicated to Johnny Mercer.

Before I left the East Coast for California in 1951, I had already started ex­perimenting with a piano-less rhythm section, using trumpeters like Don Joseph [tpt], Jerry Lloyd [tpt], or Don Ferrara [tpt], with Peter Ind on bass and Al Levitt on drums. It was actually Gail Madden who suggested the idea. She played pi­ano and percussion, and as a matter of fact I’ve recently been trying to find out what happened to her. It was her experiments that helped me when I got to L.A., since I already had an idea of what would and wouldn’t work. The last record date I did before leaving New York was in September for Prestige, playing my compositions with Allen Eager [ts] and George Wallington [p], among others. Gail played maracas on some titles, but the atmosphere was spoilt by Jerry Lloyd, who couldn’t pass up the opportunity of making jokes about her boobs bouncing up and down when she played. Jerry was an old‑guard male chauvinist and couldn’t help it, but after a while, I sent the band home except for the saxes. I didn’t want to do that thing with just Allen and me, but I had to complete the album.’

I decided to leave New York because the drug scene was a little out of con­trol and the work was rapidly drying up, so I sold my horns and Gail and I hitchhiked to California. I did a little work along the way, using borrowed horns, mostly tenors, and I remember playing in a cowboy band outside Al­buquerque for a while. I was lucky, because I knew a guy who was teaching at the university there, and he helped us keep body and soul together. When we reached L.A., I sold some arrangements to Stan Kenton, thanks to Gail, who arranged the introduction through her friendship with Bob Graettinger. She was really responsible for Graettinger’s survival up to that point, because he was nearly “done for” with alcohol, but when I met him, he was absolutely straight. I liked him a lot, and he was in the thick of a reworked “City of Glass,” and he was also writing a cello and a horn concerto. As a matter of fact, I had heard the original “City of Glass” when they were rehearsing at the Paramount Theater in New York a couple of years before.

When I first got to L.A., I did some playing with Shorty Rogers at Balboa with Art Pepper, Wardell Gray, Coop, and June Christy. Shorty was very good and always used me whenever he could, and I remember Bob Gordon was around at that time, and I liked him a lot. I soon met Dick Bock, who was in charge of publicity at the Haig, and I started working there with Paul Smith, who was the leader on the off‑nights, when the main attraction had a night off. We worked opposite Erroll Garner’s trio, and when he left, they brought in Red Norvo with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus. That’s when I took over as leader on the off‑nights, using Jimmy Rowles until I got the quartet together with Chet Baker, Bob Whitlock, and Chico Hamilton. I had encountered Chet at jam sessions in the San Fernando Valley, so when it came time to put the group together, I wanted to see how he would work out. Gail had already told me about Chico, who was just finishing a gig with Charlie Barnet’s seven‑ or eight‑piece band at the Streets of Paris down on Hollywood Boulevard. Car­son Smith took over from Bob later, and being an arranger, a lot of the good ideas in the early quartet were his. For instance the way we did “Funny Valen­tine,” with that moving bass line which really makes the arrangement, was Carson’s idea. Chico thought of doing some a cappella singing behind Chet on a couple of numbers, but Chet never sang solo with the quartet. We played opposite Red Norvo for a while, then went up to the Blackhawk in San Fran­cisco for a few weeks before returning to the Haig, this time as the main at­traction.

Bernie Miller wrote “Bernie’s Tune,” but I never knew him. As far as I know, he was a piano player from WashingtonD.C., and I think he had died by the time I encountered any of his tunes. He had a melodic touch, and he wrote a couple of other pieces that musicians liked to play. The recording company wanted to put “Bernie’s Tune” in my name but I refused, because I always objected to bandleaders putting their names to something that wasn’t theirs, so I wasn’t going to do it to Bernie Miller whether I knew him or not I told them to find out if he had a family so that the money could go to his heirs. If he didn’t have one, I would have claimed it to stop it going into the public domain. A few years later Lieber and Stoller wrote a lyric for it, which I thought was a little presumptuous; I hated the damn thing. They were nice enough fellows, but I really resented them doing that.

Chico liked using brushes, because he was an admirer of the great brush artists like Jo Jones, who was incredible ‑ also Gus Johnson and Shadow Wilson. It would be a mistake, though, to think that the records are a total indi­cation of what the group sounded like, because the drummer didn’t always use brushes, even though a lot of the pieces were recorded that way. You know, when you examine the recordings of the twenties, you find that Bessie Smith never used a drummer at all, but nobody ever comments on that. Until it was possible to isolate instruments through multi-tracking, a set of drums was hard to balance with the rest of the band. This was especially so with cymbals. A lot of recordings, even in the forties, had cymbals that tended to drown the main attraction, hence the beauty of brushes in recording. I remember when we first started rehearsing in Chet’s house down in Watts or somewhere in southeast L.A., Chico would just use a snare, standing tom‑tom, stand cymbal, and a hi‑hat, and that’s all, but when I looked in his trunk as he packed to go to the Haig for our first date, he had a whole set of drums. I said, “Where are you going with those?” and he said, “We’re going to work.” “Oh, no you’re not,” I said. “This is not what you rehearsed with. I don’t want to get to the club and find a surprise waiting for me.” So he came to work with the very minimum kit; then, as time went on, he figured out he could add to the set without changing the sound. It was always a kit geared to what we had rehearsed with and not a whole big band set of drums.

Very little of what we played was written, although my originals sometimes were. Chet and I often put the arrangements together driving to the Haig, which is how we did “Carioca,” for instance. He used to like singing the parts as we drove from his house, and we worked out that arrangement by singing t. A lot of movie people used to come and see us at the Haig, and one of the most regular was Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo), who often brought his buddy David Wayne. Mel Ferrer and Anne Baxter also used to come, and in fact, Anne had the quartet over to play at her birthday party.

Some months after our first records were released, Stan Getz showed up, playing at the Tiffany club with Bob Brookmeyer and John Williams, who was a good piano player. Stan used to sit in with us at the Haig, and I re­member a jam session at somebody’s house, probably Chet’s, where Stan, Bob, Chet, and I were the front line, and we worked really well, improvising on ensemble things that were great. Stan decided that we should all go out to­gether as a group, only he wanted it to be his group. Musically it was too bad that we couldn’t do it, but personality‑wise, I don’t think it would have worked. Stan was peculiar; if things were going along smoothly, he had to do something to louse them up, usually at someone else’s expense.

Early in 1953 we did the tentet album, and because I didn’t think Chet wanted to play lead, I brought in Pete Candoli so that he didn’t have that re­sponsibility. In the event, Chet wound up playing most of the lead parts any­way, so I had Pete, who was a high‑note man, on second trumpet! Somehow this myth has grown that Chet couldn’t read music, but people love myths. It’s more fun that way. There are lots of myths about Chet and the gothic, ro­mantic life he lived and died; it’s grist for that whole “Dark Prince” mode.

Both Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond had recommended Dick Collins as a good replacement for Chet when I was reforming the quartet at the end of 1953, but he wasn’t available. By this time I had become angry with L.A. any­way, so I telephoned Bob Brookmeyer in New York and asked him to come out to California for rehearsals, and bring some New York musicians with him. Bringing guys from the East was obviously expensive, but after rehearsals, we only had a couple of dates booked before going back to the East Coast to work. He arrived with Bill Anthony and Frank Isola, who had both been with Stan Getz. Before leaving town, we did our one and only engagement with the ten­tet at the Embassy Theater in downtown L.A., and that was quite an experi­ence. When I looked through the curtains at 8 o’clock, it seemed as though we had bombed out, because there was hardly anyone in the house. We decided to get the show underway when someone came backstage very excitedly telling w to wait, because people were lined up around the block. Apparently, the newspaper advertisement for the concert quoted the wrong time. We wound up with a full house, and it really was quite an evening. It was so exciting that some fans stole a couple of the books, including mine, and it was at that point that we started to be more careful with the music.

I had a second baritone as well as the tuba in the tentet, because they do different things, although the baritone is used in today’s big band setup as if it were a tuba, but it’s not at all. However, I’ve finally realized that I don’t need a tuba, because laying in all those bottom notes gets in the bass player’s way. Later on, when I was organizing the Concert Jazz Band, I had intended to include a tuba, but at that point, there was nobody I could count on who could cut the book to go on the road with us. The third trombone was sup­posed to be a tuba, so Alan Raph came in on bass trombone. What I really wanted was Bob Brookmeyer, bass trombone, and tuba, which would have given me a complete scale and palette, starting at the bottom and going chromatically to the clarinet on top. I could have used flutes, but they depended on amplification to be heard in that kind of band, and I didn’t want to me­ss with that. I would have liked to have a couple of clarinets or possibly a soprano sax and maybe even C trumpets to sustain higher tones.

When the quartet reached New York early in 1954, I replaced Bill Anthony with Red Mitchell, who was one of the best bass players I’ve had. Frank Isola was with me for most of that year, and his thing really was to play time and keep out of the way, which worked out alright. Most of the drummers approached the quartet like that, which I accept. I hired guys because I liked the way they played, and Frank’s approach established a precedent for the bard, whether I wanted it or not. It’s not quite what I wanted, because I would rather have had a little more activity or aggression in the rhythm section.

I had become used to playing with drummers like Max Roach, and when we were in Kai Winding’s group, he was wonderfully considerate, thinking like an arranger by injecting melodic interest into what was going on. Very few drummers could do that. Most of them were aggressive but didn’t add musical things that a writer would appreciate, and as a soloist, I didn’t appreciate it either. Everyone should be working together, and if anything, soloist should dictate where the solo goes. If you were playing with Buddy Rich or Art Blakey, for instance, and they felt it was time for the soloist to be pushing and getting into something climatic, they’d start pushing, whether you were ready or not. Max didn’t do that because he listened to the soloist and that is the kind of player I would have really welcomed.

That was one of the reasons why I always had problems with drummers,  I needed somebody who was walking a thin line between playing the non-aggressive smooth thing that, say, Lennie Tristano wanted, where the drumm­er just kept time without any comments, but on the other hand, not dropping bombs all over the place. Even Chico used to do that, which is one of the rea­sons I took his bass drum away from him. He did it in Charlie Barnet’s band and I said, “I’ll kill him if he does that to me!” You have to remember that we were a totally acoustic group, and getting a balance to include the bass in the overall sound meant coming pretty far down in volume. I always needed a drummer who thought in terms of the ensemble sound, which is why Dave Bailey and Gus Johnson played the way they did with the quartet. Now if a drummer has a way of doing that and being busy, like Mel Lewis, for in­stance, that’s fine. Mel never actually played with the quartet, which is a pity, because he carried on that chattering conversation underneath your playing which I always liked. There would be punctuations, and it would relate in a way that meant something in the construction. Gus Johnson’s feel with the group was a lot different, but I had remembered how polished he was from seeing him with Count Basie. He was fun, and he loved playing brushes. As time went on, I was after drummers to play louder and use more sticks, but I never really pressed the point.

Later on in 1954 I was between trumpets and trombones, since I needed a replacement for Bob Brookmeyer, and being in the East, I decided to try Tony Fruscella. Now Tony had that fuzzy, introverted tone that Chet had, although Chet’s was more outgoing while Tony’s was very inwardly directed. It sounded nice, but one concert at the Newport Jazz Festival was enough for me to realize that having Tony traveling with me and being onstage together night after night would have driven me crazy. He lived in a world of his own, and when someone is a real introvert, it can take all your strength just to sur­vive. They seem to have a magnet sucking in your energy but nothing comes out, which is what shyness does to people. For the professional life of con­certs in a band that works and travels, your energy has to be up for it, and you can’t live in a world of your own because you have to deal with the real world. Having a guy like Tony meant I had to deal for myself and him too. It was too bad it didn’t work out, because he was such a lovely player, but he just did that one concert with me.

It’s funny because Stan Kenton was the M.C. at Newport that year, and he always had the amazing ability of giving a speech that sounded so serious. You would be listening attentively, until you suddenly realized that he’s not saying anything! I don’t know how he did it, but it was all delivered with such oratorical sincerity that you felt it was your fault for missing the point. To­wards the end of that year, I recorded some titles with John Graas and Don Fagerquist in California. I loved the way Don played, and he would have been an ideal trumpeter for the quartet, but he wasn’t available when I needed him. At the end of 1954 I disbanded the quartet to go home to New York and write some new music.

In 1955 I  sometimes played as a guest in Chet Baker’s group, and I seem to remember a date in Detroit with him and Mose Allison. I also worked at Basin Street for a few weeks with Al Cohn, Gil Evans, George Duvivier, and Herb Wasserman. Now Stan Getz was around the comer at Birdland, and he drove Al crazy. Every time he was free and we were playing, he would come and watch Al from the Peanut Gallery, staring up at him and making him feel uncomfortable.’ What he really wanted was to take Al’s mouthpiece and have it copied over at Otto Link’s. Al kept refusing, but Stan pestered him for about ten nights until he finally gave in. They met during the day, and Stan had it copied so that he could get a sound like Al’s.

Later on that year I formed the sextet, and initially Idrees Sulieman was on trumpet, but he just did a couple of dates with us because we had a hard time getting together on a style for the ensemble. I think he was an interesting choice, and the group would have sounded a lot different, but we weren’t comfortable with each other, because our stylistic approach wasn’t compati­ble. I have often wondered what the sextet would have sounded like if we had aimed it in that direction. We ran the group for quite a while, although I don’t remember all the reasons for not continuing with it. Zoot Sims may have wanted to leave, because a soloist like that would have found it to be a strait-jacket after a while, and I certainly didn’t try to replace him; Zoot was Zoot.

After the sextet I was “between groups,” and “between everything” at this point. I was really at a low ebb, having had enough of being a bandleader for a while, because being the leader can be a pain in the neck. You have to lay out the focus of the thing, decide what to play, and arrange the transportation and hotels as well. There have been periods when I have been fed up and looked for somebody else’s band to play with, which happened much later when I worked with Dave Brubeck. I was just going to be a soloist on one date; then we played in Mexico. One thing led to another, and I became the saxophone player who came to dinner and didn’t leave for about seven years!  In 1956 I did a little campaigning for Adlai Stevenson, who was the Democratic nominee for the presidency, when he ran unsuccessfully against Ike.  The following year, I worked a little with Mose Allison, and I think that Chet and I took a group out together, although it was primarily his group. We  a recorded a couple of albums, but there was never any talk of us getting together permanently. Over the next couple of years I did a lot of recording. I remember a session with Manny Albam, which was a nice L.P. with a good group musicians, and it was fun playing in the ensembles. [Jazz Greats of Our Time, Vol. 1, Coral CRL 57173].

I did a date with Stan Getz which Norman Granz wanted us to do [Stan Getz Meets Gerry Mulligan in Hi Fi, Verve 849 392 2]. He was recording Stan, but you can ­tell from the material that we really didn’t have anything prepared. The jam session idea is alright, but it has never been my bag, and it wasn’t my idea to switch horns on some numbers; Stan or Norman suggested it. I liked Zoot’s and Brew Moore’s mouthpieces, but I never liked Stan’s, and I didn’t like the sound I got on it.  I did an album with Monk, and having Thelonious as an accompanist was a challenge [Gerry Mulligan Meets Thelonious Monk, OJCCD  20 310-2]. We only played together a couple of times, but I remember a jam session I finally dragged him to, where we played “Tea for Two” and one other tune all night. He was trying to get us to play “Tea for Two” the way Tatum played it, where the progression goes up and then down in semi‑tones, and we had to try and follow him. In the mid fifties we lived near each other in New York, hence my original “Good Neighbor Thelo­nious,” because he lived on 63rd and I was on 68th Street near Columbus.

I also recorded with Paul Desmond, who always wanted to do the piano­-less quartet thing, with the alto playing lead instead of trumpet [Gerry Mulligan-Paul Desmond Quartet, Verve 519-850-2]. Dick Bock produced an album with me, Lee Konitz, Al, Zoot, and Allen Eager, which he called The Mulligan Songbook, Volume 1 [CDP 7243 8 33575 2 9] although I told him that title was a little optimistic. I used Freddie Green on guitar, because I was always mess­ing around with the rhythm section, trying to find out what to do with it, and I loved the idea of playing with Freddie. The Annie Ross date was Dick’s idea, and although we hadn’t worked together before, I liked her and the al­bum came out well. My favorite record from the “Mulligan Meets . . . “ se­ries was the one with Ben Webster, Jimmy Rowles, Leroy Vinnegar, and Mel Lewis [The Complete Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster Sessions, Verve 539-055-2]. We played quite a lot with that group, including a feature on the Di­nah Shore T.V. show, and everybody could be called a co‑arranger because they all made a contribution. Jimmy Rowles was wonderful, and what he does is so deceptively simple, fitting things in so that they become part of the whole. Unfortunately he is now very ill with emphysema.”

In 1957 I did a big band album which I didn’t complete, and consequently it wasn’t released until about twenty years later [Mullenium, Columbia CK 65678] I wasn’t pleased with the way things were going, because on the fast numbers I couldn’t get my rhythm section together. I had Dave Bailey on one set of dates and Gus Johnson on the other, and I realized that I had to write more for them, because there wasn’t time for them to get to know the pieces like they would in a small band. It created a problem which I couldn’t overcome, and George Avakian, who was the A and R man for CBS, said to postpone everything until later. He then left CBS, and it wouldn’t have come out at all if it hadn’t been for Henri Renaud. I remember Don Joseph played beautifully on “All the Things You Are.”

When I formed the Concert Jazz Band in 1960, Norman Granz’s financial input was pretty extensive. He paid for a tour in the States to prepare us for a European trip, but I paid for everything else, which is how I always ill‑spent any profit I was able to make; I’ve always been a sucker that way! Judy Hol­liday did an album with us, although she never sang live with the band [Judy Holiday with Gerry Mulligan  DRG Records SLI 5191]. She should have done, because she would have been more comfortable when we got into the studio. Judy always joked, but it was only half‑a‑joke, that her way of going to work was to go to the theater, heave, and then start to get dressed. Recording for her was worse, but as she got to know the material, her sound would evolve, so it would have been good if she could have sung with the band at some point. Phil Woods didn’t record with us, but he was a regu­lar in the band whenever we could get him. He was always pretty busy, but he played quite a lot with us at Birdland. Later on, in the seventies, I formed another big band, and although I never really dropped the name, the Concert Jazz Band was a particular band and instrumentation in my mind.

After the CJB I went back to the piano-less quartet with Bob Brookmeyer. until we finally disbanded the group in 1965. Later that year I played with Roy Eldridge and Earl Hines in Europe. I would have loved to play more with Roy, but they booked the tour in such a ridiculous way, I wound up getting flu or something and I gave the whole thing up. The sixties were turbulent years.

I have always played a Conn baritone, but in the early sixties I used a Selmer for about a year. Jerome Richardson was funny, because when I started playing the Selmer, he said, “You sound peculiar. Why don’t you get your Conn back and sound like you’re supposed to. That sounds awful­! Eventually the Selmer got damaged, so I went back to the Conn, and Jerome came into the Vanguard one night and said, “Finally you’ve got your Conn and everything’s back to normal.” I never did like the Selmer anyway, be­cause of the way it was balanced, with the short neck on it.

Coming right up to date, in January 1994 I was elected to the Down Beat “Hall of Fame.” Somebody said, “What took so long?” and it’s true, things do seem to happen slowly for me, but I guess I’m not considered to be a fash­ionable elder. Popularity polls can be strange, because I started out as at arranger and always think of myself as one, but I don’t show up in that cate­gory at all, which used to bug me. Have you noticed in the Down Beat polls that nobody ever votes for my present quartet? If I don’t have a piano-less quartet, it’s as though I don’t have a quartet at all. You know, these things are fun to talk about, but I’ll have to stop, or we’ll be here all night.”

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved

In discussing the ‘Birth Of The Cool’ arrangements writer Bill Kirchner observed “Their influence has been compared to the Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Sevens and to other classics by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Charlie Parker. These recordings had an enormous influence on musicians and the jazz public. Principally, they have been credited – or blamed, depending on one’s point of view – for the subsequent popularity of ‘Cool’ or West Coast Jazz…….but their influence extended much further and writers like Gigi Gryce, Quincy Jones and Benny Golson produced recordings using this approach.”

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles is working on some larger features which it plans to post in the coming days. In the meantime, we thought you might enjoy another visit with Gordon Jack on these pages.

Gordon is the author of Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective [LanhamMD: Scarecrow Press, 2004]  and he has graciously granted the editorial staff at JazzProfiles permission to reprint his work on these pages.

This essay first appeared in the March 2002 issue of JazzJournal and it can also be found in the sleeve-note for Bud Shank’s CD After You, Jeru [Fresh Sound FSR 5026].

Order information regarding Jazz Journal is available at

© -Gordon Jack/JazzJournal, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

It is now 50 years since Gerry Mulligan  created one of the most distinctive and arresting sounds in small group jazz by the simple expedient of removing the piano from his rhythm section.   This pianoless ensemble focussed attention on his solo abilities even though he was  far better known as an arranger, having begun his career some years before writing for Gene Krupa, Elliot Lawrence and Claude Thornhill.  He did occasionally play with those bands and on a CBS album – The Arranger – there is a delightful photograph showing him aged nineteen playing second alto in Krupa’s sax section, but he was primarily employed for his skill with the pen rather than the saxophone.  During his time with the drummer he wrote one of the band’s biggest hits – Disc Jockey Jump.  In its first sixteen bars there is a resemblance to Jimmy Giuffre’s Four Brothers  although it was recorded in January 1947, ten months before the Woody
Herman classic.

It was thanks to his involvement with the unique Claude Thornhill orchestra that he met Gil Evans, and as a result became one of the most important figures in what was eventually known as the Miles Davis ‘Birth Of The Cool’ nonet.  Gene Lees once asked Mulligan how Davis had become the leader and Gerry replied,  “He made the telephone calls for the rehearsals and made everybody get in and play.”   Miles also obtained the band’s only booking - two weeks at the Royal Roost in 1948.  In a recent  JJI interview Lee Konitz said that the writing was the most important aspect of the band and because Gerry had written most of the charts, he considered him to be the guiding light. This has been confirmed by Johnny Carisi who contributed Israel to the project saying, “Gerry wrote more than anybody”.  Only recently has it emerged that the baritonist arranged
seven of the twelve titles recorded by the ensemble and not five as was originally thought, proving his contribution to be even greater than was acknowledged at the time.  

Just as an aside, the principal writers - Mulligan, Evans and John Lewis - did not get paid for the charts.  In his book Arranging The Score,  Lees quotes John Lewis saying to Miles “We wrote this stuff for ourselves. This was a rehearsal band and that was great.  Now you’ve recorded  we’re supposed to get paid”, but apparently they didn’t get a penny.  In discussing the ‘Birth Of The Cool’ arrangements writer Bill Kirchner observed “Their influence has been compared to the Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Sevens and to other classics by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Charlie Parker.  These recordings had an enormous influence on musicians and the jazz public.  Principally, they have been credited – or blamed, depending on one’s point of view – for the subsequent popularity of ‘Cool’ or West Coast Jazz…….but their influence extended much further and writers like Gigi Gryce, Quincy Jones and Benny Golson produced recordings using this approach.”   Artistic achievement alone seldom pays the rent and the work situation in New York became so difficult, that on more than one occasion Mulligan was forced to rehearse a band in Central Park because nobody had enough money to hire a studio.

Towards the end of 1951 he decided to sell his instruments and with his girl friend Gail Madden, hitchhiked to Los Angeles.  Thanks to her former relationship with Bob Graettinger he was introduced to Stan Kenton, who was not too keen on Mulligan’s work at first thinking it too simple.  Mulligan said “The first chart I took to a rehearsal was rejected by Stan, but the next day Bill Holman brought in an arrangement that sounded more like me than I did!”   On another occasion, one of Gerry’s scores called for Shelly Manne to play brushes on cymbals.  After listening for a while with obvious displeasure, Kenton shouted out “No! No! No! – we don’t use brushes on cymbals in this band  - that’s faggot music!”   However, long time Kenton arrangers like Holman and Lennie Niehaus have acknowledged Gerry’s influence in the way he thinned out the ensemble
lines allowing the band to swing more.  His writing was highly popular with musicians and the public and numbers like LimelightSwinghouse and Young Blood pointed the band towards a far more subtle approach.  Talking about Kenton, Miles Davis once said “If you get a guy like Gerry around a band all the other arrangers start writing a little better.  In jazz writing there has to be space.  Gerry, Gil Evans and Duke know that but some guys try to fill it all up.”   Years later when Mulligan was editing charts submitted by other writers for his Concert Jazz Band, Bob Brookmeyer would joke to the musicians “We’re having a rehearsal to-morrow – bring your erasers!”

Early in 1952 Mulligan obtained a regular Monday night booking at the Haig, a club with a capacity of 85 customers opposite the famous Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard. It was while he was appearing at the club that Richard Nixon composed his famous ‘Checkers’ speech at the Ambassador, which saved his position on the Republican ticket as Dwight D.Eisenhower’s running mate. Albert Einstein once rang reception there to complain about room service and on another occasion, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald set fire to their room creeping out in the confusion without paying the bill! Sadly, the hotel achieved a different notoriety when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated there while campaigning for the Presidency in 1968. The Ambassador’s nightclub – The Cocoanut Grove – was the playroom for the elite of Hollywood society and Elizabeth Taylor, Howard Hughes, James Stewart, Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe all came to dine and dance to the music of Freddy Martin. Across the street at The Haig, owner John Bennett catered for an altogether hipper audience. With no cover charge but a two drink minimum, the fans could sit and listen to Gerry Mulligan on his Monday night jam sessions with guests like Art Pepper, Dave Pell, Ernie Royal, Jimmy Rowles and Howard Roberts. Bassist Bob Whitlock often played on these occasions and he recently told me how he had introduced Chet Baker to the baritonist. Whitlock and Baker had known each other since 1948 when they played in downtown Los Angeles with Ray Vasquez’s Latin Band and had become lifelong friends. At a Mulligan rehearsal at the Cottage Italia, a restaurant in North Hollywood, Bob recommended Baker when it became obvious that a certain trumpeter (whose name is now forgotten) was not working out. It was at this time that Gerry decided to stop using the piano because in Chet Baker he had found someone who was totally sympathetic to his aims. They were quite different personalities but musically they became one of the great partnerships in jazz and the Mulligan pianoless concept in one form or another, lasted for the next 14 years. One of the earliest titles recorded by the group for Richard Bock was Walkin’ Shoes, which was a reference to Mulligan and Gail Madden’s mode of travel from the east to the west coast. It was the outstanding success of the early quartet recordings that allowed Bock who had been in charge of publicity at The Haig, to launch his Pacific Jazz label.

With the pianoless quartet Gerry achieved a unique and pristine ensemble sound dominated by his quite outstanding ability as an accompanist on the baritone. His skill as one of the foremost jazz writers was matched by the way he could compose instant arrangements on the bandstand, finding perfect counter lines to whatever his playing partners conceived. It was this single quality that made his groups so distinctive for despite becoming a virtuoso soloist, Mulligan was essentially an ensemble player and the quartet was most definitely an ensemble – not just two soloists sharing a stage with a rhythm section. It should also be remembered that most of the group’s arrangements were improvised with very little being written. Bob Whitlock who was the original bass player in the quartet has confirmed that “Gerry’s abilities as an accompanist were phenomenal. He had that vast pool of ideas to draw upon from all those years as an arranger and he could tap into them on the spot. He always had his ears open and expected the same from his cohorts.” Trombonist Dave Glenn expressed similar sentiments to Steve Voce when Mulligan’s big band was touring the U.K. with Mel Torme in 1983. “Even after all these years Gerry continues to amaze me. He is the greatest cat I’ve ever heard in playing counter lines to a melody. When we were working with Mel, they would perform as a quartet with Mel taking Chet’s role. The counter lines were different every night and they were brilliant.” During the fifties many groups emphasised the importance of the soloist at the expense of any group interaction. Some leaders like Miles Davis actually left the stand when colleagues were featured but with his love of ensemble playing, Mulligan’s saxophone is hardly ever quiet on his recordings as he gently supports and encourages his associates. In its eleven months existence the Mulligan/Baker quartet proved to be sensationally popular, leading to a February 1953 profile in Time Magazine where it was described as “The hot music topic in Los Angeles………where they drew the biggest crowds in The Haig’s history.” The previous month Gerry had recorded with his tentette with Baker again as the featured soloist. The lead trumpeter on the date was Pete Candoli but on some titles Mulligan told me that it was Chet who actually played lead – thus disproving one of the great myths of jazz. Given a choice between myth or the truth the media will generally go for the former, which is why Chet Baker still has a reputation of being unable to read music and also being ignorant about chords. The truth as confirmed by contemporaries like Herb Geller and Bud Shank, is that he could read although in common with many jazzmen he was not a sight-reader and as Mulligan wittily observed, “Chet knew everything about chords, he just didn’t know their names!” A little known fact is that just after the tentette recordings Gerry eloped with Jeffie Lee Boyd who was a waitress at The Haig, prompting Baker to book Geller into playing with him in the quartet for three weeks until the baritonist returned from his honeymoon.

Gerry’s expertise as a composer of improvised arrangements was particularly evident in 1955 when he formed what many consider to be his best ever small group – the sextet. On recordings like Elevation which he had written for the Elliot Lawrence Orchestra, he is in his element as he takes on his customary role of a Pied Piper leading Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims and Don Ferrara through a series of extemporised riffs, hinting at a phrase here and a comment there which in turn is picked up by the other horns and developed into what could almost be a written arrangement. Towards the end of the decade he made a series of fine albums with a diverse range of star soloists including Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, Thelonious Monk, Annie Ross and Jimmy Witherspoon. His abilities as a supreme baritone soloist were at last fully recognised because as Bob Brookmeyer has observed , “When Gerry first arrived in Los Angeles in 1952 he was still considered to be primarily a writer.” As late as 1957 he had told Nat Hentoff that it had only been within the previous two years that he had been fully able to control the baritone, with a direct line between his imagination and his fingers.

It was in the late fifties that Leonard Feather commissioned a fascinating poll inviting leading jazzmen and women to nominate their personal favourites. It revealed that Mulligan had found total acceptance from a wide spectrum of players since Nat Cole, Miles Davis, Buddy De Franco, Erroll Garner, Urbie Green, Stan Getz, Terry Gibbs, Bobby Hackett, Carmen McRae, Oscar Pettiford and Lester Young were just some of the instrumentalists who voted for him. In discussing Gerry Mulligan, Phil Woods once said “No one played the instrument like Gerry, because it was too hard.” His long time drummer Dave Bailey recently told me, “With his soft tone coupled with the masculinity of the baritone, he would sometimes blow your mind – especially on ballads.” As with his writing, there was an elegant lyricism about his approach that belied the apparent clumsiness of his chosen means of expression. This was partly because when soloing, he rarely ventured into the bottom fifth of the instrument preferring to construct his melodic lines in the middle and upper registers much as Lester Young – one of his inspirations – might have done had he played the baritone.

Duke Ellington usually composed with his own sidemen in mind but he made an exception in Mulligan’s case when he wrote Prima Bara Dubla, which was performed with that other baritone master Harry Carney at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Over the years Gerry often played with the Ellington band usually sitting in the section next to Johnny Hodges, improvising(!) a sixth saxophone part. Early in 1974 he took Carney’s place when the Ellington veteran was hospitalized prior to a concert in Miami. The end of the fifties saw him appearing and playing in a number of Hollywood films like I Want To Live, The Rat Race and The Subterraneans and if the latter, where he took the part of a horn playing preacher isn’t one of the worst films ever made, it will do until the real thing comes along! The music though, composed by Andre Previn was fine and Mulligan played in an all star line-up with Art Farmer, Art Pepper, Bill Perkins and Russ Freeman. He also had a non-playing acting role with the wonderful Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing, handling his part with considerable aplomb. Although they never married they were what the gossip columnists refer to as an ‘item’ until her death in 1965. The decade ended with a two-part profile in the New Yorker by Nat Hentoff proving that his fame had now spread far beyond the narrow confines of jazz. Indeed as Jerome Klinkowitz points out in his fine book Listen: Gerry Mulligan , the writer Thomas Pynchon refers to the baritonist in his 1960 story Entropy. He was now recording for the Verve label and few eyebrows were raised when Norman Granz authorized an advertising campaign in the trade press simply stating, “1960 belongs to Gerry Mulligan”. Almost as a confirmation Metronome organised a reader’ poll in 1959 to find the most popular jazz musicians of all time where he finished third, behind Miles Davis and the winner Charlie Parker. The fact that Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington finished no higher than sixth and 16th. respectively shows how ephemeral polls can be, but nevertheless it indicates how incredibly popular Mulligan was by now – a popularity he maintained throughout his career without in any way compromising his artistry.

Having made some money from his film making, he decided at the beginning of the sixties to return to his first love by forming a larger organization which he called The Concert Jazz Band. As a young man he had been an arranger and occasional sideman in other people’s bands but he was now the chief soloist, who unfortunately found little time to write. This ensemble was rightly called a big little-band, because his attention to detail ensured that the 13 pieces had the same clarity and transparency that characterized his small groups. As Bill Crow observed at the time, “He knows exactly what he wants, which is a quiet band. He can swing at about 15 decibals lower than any other band.” On the same subject Mulligan once told Harry Frost, “When you overblow, the tone quality goes. Our band shouts but it doesn’t scream.” It was not always just sweetness and light however and on numbers like The Red Door, I’m Gonna Go Fishin’, Lady Chatterley’s Mother and Blueport the band displays a relentless drive and passion that is totally infectious but which never gets completely out of hand – what George Simon has accurately called “Controlled Violence.” The CJB adopted the same free wheeling approach to ensemble playing that had been such a feature of his quartet and sextet. Bill Crow told me, “What was so good about the band was having someone in each section who was a good riff maker – Gerry in the saxes, Bobby Brookmeyer in the trombones and Clark Terry in the trumpets. Gerry would start to play backgrounds behind a soloist and by the second time around the rest of the saxes would be playing in unison or harmonising with him, then Brookmeyer or Terry would think of a counter line and the brass would join that. The band would stay behind the soloist for five or six choruses of improvised riffs and it would really get going until it reached a certain level, when Gerry would give the signal to go into the next written section.”
Unfortunately in spite of the band’s undoubted musical worth and Mulligan’s popularity, it was difficult keeping it on the road and he was often forced to revert to the quartet formula with Brookmeyer when bookings for the CJB became scarce. In an enthusiastic review of a Birdland performance Ira Gitler wrote in Down Beat, “If this band cannot work when it wants to, there is something very wrong with the state of music in the United States.” Clearly a prophetic statement, because within eight months the CJB was playing its final engagement at Birdland on New Years Eve 1964, which was also the night the club closed down for business. The personnel that so impressed Gitler included Thad Jones, Nick Travis, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Willie Dennis, Phil Woods and Richie Kamuca. Al Cohn, Ben Webster, Benny Powell and Jimmy Owens had also sat in with the band. 

Discussing his time with the CJB Clark Terry told writer Joe Goldberg, “Gerry’s a real leader. He respects all the guys and knows how much they contribute and you feel you’re part of things. He pays well too, unlike one leader I worked for who used to say ‘I want you to remember it’s me they are paying to see.”’ Many other sidemen have expressed similar sentiments. Bob Brookmeyer for instance had an offer from Duke Ellington in 1962 which he had to turn down because Duke could not match what he was earning with Mulligan. Bill Crow used to get increases without asking for them and Dave Bailey has confirmed that Mulligan preferred to pay his musicians generously, rather than give the money to the Federal Government. He would also whenever possible, fly the band first class. Apparently, the fringe benefits were so good that a number of famous drummers – among them Art Taylor and Osie Johnson – regularly telephoned Gerry trying to get him to fire Bailey so they could take over!

In retrospect, the closure of Birdland and the break up of the CJB seemed to indicate the end of an era, not only for jazz but for Gerry Mulligan too. The sixties was a time when the avant-garde were challenging former truths and persuading many that the removal of melody, harmony and rhythm was the way forward – an approach that helped turn jazz into even more of a minority interest. It was to be another seven years before Mulligan’s next major project, The Age Of Steam which was recorded in 1971. Harry Edison and Bud Shank were in the line-up and Brookmeyer was involved again along with some of the younger generation including the magnificent Roger Kellaway, Tom Scott and John Guerin. The album introduced Gerry’s exciting K4 Pacific which he often used as a concert finale in later years. Another highlight was Shank’s sensitive work on the slowly moving harmonies of Grand Tour, an intensely sad and poignant original by the leader. While Age Of Steam was being recorded Mulligan and Shank appeared on a Beaver And Krause L.P. playing Gerry’s By Your Grace, which ultimately became the much longer and grander Entente For Baritone Saxophone And Orchestra. This piece which was dedicated to Nancy and Zubin Mehta was a totally successful marriage of the jazz saxophone soloist with the symphony orchestra. Mulligan recorded it with the Houston Symphony under Erich Kunzel in 1987 and five months later it was performed in concert with Zubin Mehta. On the same evening, Itzhak Perlman sat in with Mulligan’s quartet to play a little jazz.

During the last sixteen years of his life Mulligan maintained a punishing schedule, touring worldwide with either his reformed big band or the quartet which now featured a piano in a conventional rhythm section. When I asked him about the reintroduction of a keyboard he said that he wanted to play the melody more, which of course is difficult in a pianoless context because of his role as an accompanist. He had just been inducted into the Down Beat Hall Of Fame and he told me, “Popularity polls can be strange because I started out as an arranger and I always think of myself as one, but I don’t show up in that category at all and that used to bug me. Have you noticed in Down Beat that nobody ever votes for my present quartet? If I don’t have a pianoless quartet it’s as though I don’t have a quartet at all!”

The period from 1980 was arguably his most creative as a songwriter yet Bud Shank recently said “Too few of us were aware of what he was doing then.” Critics, while acknowledging his outstanding abilities as a creative soloist seemed to ignore the very real beauty of his compositions. Lyrics have occasionally been added to his songs and Gene Lees who has called him one of the greatest composers in jazz, put words to I Heard The Shadows Dancing. Mel Torme recorded The Real Thing with his own lyric and this piece was performed by Carol Sloane at a Mulligan Memorial concert on February 12, 1996. The Brazilian singer Jane Duboc wrote words to a number of Mulligan originals on a charming 1993 CD entitled Paraiso –Jazz Brazil. Of course an earlier album that is always remembered with affection is his 1961 recording with Judy Holliday where they collaborated on What’s The Rush, Loving You, It Must Be Christmas and Summer’s Over. Just before she died in 1965 they were working on an Anita Loos play called Happy Birthday and Ms Loos was quoted as saying that the music for the show was “Brilliant”. Over the years a number of instrumental albums have been devoted to his music by people like Claude Williamson, Sal Salvador, Vic Lewis, Elliot Lawrence and Gene Krupa. Since his death though in 1996, it is as if his originals have been rediscovered since Bill Charlap with Ted Rosenthal – Brookmeyer with Lee Konitz and Randy Brecker – Kerry Strayer with Brecker again - Bud Shank and Ronnie Cuber have all recorded tribute albums. Cuber’s Three Baritone Sax Band Plays Mulligan with Nick Brignola and Gary Smulyan is particularly interesting, as it is Ronnie’s intention for the group to continue recording and touring, promoting Mulligan the songwriter.

In Gerry Mulligan’s hands the baritone saxophone, once considered an unwieldy section horn, became a vehicle for the most elegant and gracefully lyrical solo statements. He was also one of the music’s most creative arrangers and composers and his themes deserve to be as much a part of the jazz language as those by celebrated contemporaries like Benny Golson, Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver.

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