© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
The following article was first published in Jazz Journal October 2017.
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© - Gordon Jack/JazzJournal; copyright protected, all rights reserved., used with permission.
“Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan were two of the most original soloists to emerge during the fifties - a decade that has sometimes been called the last Golden Age of Jazz. They occasionally worked together but not always with the happiest of results.
Their first studio encounter took place in April 1949 on a date with Stan as the leader called The Brothers featuring Al Cohn, Allen Eager, Brew Moore and Zoot Sims. At this early stage of their careers the tenors sound very close to their original inspiration (Lester Young) but luckily the sleeve-note gives a solo break-down for ease of identification. Four titles were recorded and Mulligan who did not perform, contributed two originals – Five Brothers and Four And One Moore. He also loaned his baritone to Getz for the ensemble passages on Five Brothers (Classics F1126CD). A little later the musicians’ union became involved because Stan apparently refused to pay Gerry for the charts. On the day of the hearing the case was dismissed when it was found that Mulligan had temporarily allowed his union dues to lapse.
The following month they recorded together in a twelve-piece ensemble titled Gene Roland’s Boppers that included a Four Brothers-style saxophone section - Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Mulligan. Back in 1946 Roland had been experimenting with four tenors to create a light, airy sound very much influenced by Lester Young. This of course became a defining characteristic for Woody Herman’s Second and subsequent Herds when he replaced one of the tenors with a baritone. To put this session into perspective, it took place five months after Stan’s classic Early Autumn solo with Herman and three weeks after Gerry’s second recording date with the Miles Davis nonet. It is possible that the Roland tracks were merely rehearsals and not intended for release because they remained unissued until 2014 when they were included on a Chubby Jackson CD - Uptown UPCD27.75/27.76. One of the titles Sid’s Swing Symphony by Mulligan has an interesting provenance. A contrafact of Godchild it later became known as Ontet for Gerry’s 1953 tentette.
1949 was the year Stan’s genius was acknowledged by Metronome magazine which voted him the Top Tenor. Along with Lee Konitz he was also their “Musician of the Year”. He finally left Woody Herman that year and began freelancing successfully around New York. Early Autumn was constantly on the radio and his quartet recording with Al Haig of Long Island Sound (based on Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart) also became something of a hit thanks to extensive airplay from Symphony Sid (Original Jazz Classics JCCD 706-2). Fifteen months after the Roland date he was booked into the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem with his own big band for a week opposite Charlie Parker with strings. The sax section featured Don Lanphere, Zoot and Mulligan and two badly recorded examples of the band’s performances (Four Brothers and Early Autumn) have survived on Zim-ZM1007. Sarah Vaughan was also included on the bill for the engagement. Ken Vail’s fascinating Bird’s Diary has a picture of Parker and Mulligan buying food from a street vendor during a break from rehearsals. Donald Maggin’s Getz biography has a shot of Stan outside the Apollo during a similar rest period.
Unlike Stan, these were difficult years for Mulligan. With his innovative writing for Gene Krupa, Elliot Lawrence and Miles Davis he was recognised by the cognoscenti as an arranger with fresh and original ideas but he was finding it difficult to get regular bookings as an instrumentalist. He occasionally worked and recorded around town in a Kai Winding group that included Brew Moore and George Wallington. He also arranged and played on a stimulating Chubby Jackson date featuring Howard McGhee, J.J. Johnson, Georgie Auld and Don Lamond among others (ProperboxPVCD119) but as he told me in a JJ interview (May/June 1995) “The work was rapidly drying up”. On more than one occasion he had to rehearse a band on the shore of the 72nd. Street lake in Central Park because nobody had enough money to hire a studio. Soon after his first album as a leader (Definitive DRCD 11227) he sold his horns and moved out to L.A. hoping for a change of luck. Flying, driving or catching a train was beyond his means so he hitchhiked there with his girl-friend Gail Maddon. His Walkin’ Shoes is a reference to their mode of travel from the east to the west coast and years later he called this trip, “Living Jack Kerouac’s On The Road – steerage class”. Through Gail’s previous relationship with Bob Graettinger he met Stan Kenton who soon purchased a number of his arrangements. He also started appearing at the Haig - a booking that assumed historical proportions when he formed his first pianoless quartet there with Chet Baker in 1952.
1952 was also the year Getz recorded Moonlight in Vermont with Johnny Smith. It proved to be hugely popular giving him yet another hit to rival Early Autumn. It also pushed his price to over $1000.00 a week and club owners insisted he perform it every night. The success of Vermont persuaded Norman Granz to offer him an exclusive contract with his Clef label. Bill Crow who was working with Getz at the time told me, “Johnny Mandel played trombone with us. He transcribed some of Gerry’s tunes like Walkin’ Shoes and Line For Lyons because Stan was so keen on the Mulligan quartet sound. Looking back, I don’t think there was any rivalry between Stan and Gerry because they were both in a ‘Star’ position in the jazz world. Getz of course was more difficult than Gerry and he was devious which Gerry never was”.
A little later after Bob Brookmeyer replaced Mandel, Stan took his quintet to California for residencies at the Tiffany and Zardi’s. After intermissions Stan and Bob used to go to the Haig to listen to Gerry’s group and sometimes after work they would all get together. This is how Mulligan explained it to me, “I remember a jam session at somebody’s house where Stan, Bob, Chet and I were the front line and we worked really well together 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.”
Things came to a head when Stan told Down Beat, “I’m going out to the coast and when I return at the end of February, I intend to bring with me Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. With guys who can blow as much as Gerry, Chet and Bob the band should be the end. All three of them will write for the band.” This was news to Mulligan who replied in the next issue, “I don’t know what Stan has in mind here when he talks about adding me and Chet to his combo but it’s not for me. For years I stayed in the background and wrote arrangements for many bands. Now in the quartet I have something that is all mine. I can see no reason for sharing it with anyone.”
Their next little difficulty occurred in 1954 when they were part of a nation-wide tour with Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington organised by Norman Granz. For seven weeks beginning in New York’s Carnegie Hall the package performed in nine cities across the U.S. before concluding at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on November 8th. Getz’s part of the programme there was recorded on Verve 513 753-2 and Duke Ellington introduced him as “One of the leading exponents of the cool school”. His playing of course is anything but on a programme of standards and originals by Johnny Mandel, Al Cohn and Brookmeyer. Pianist John Williams adds considerably to the success of the CD demonstrating once again what an inspiring accompanist and hard swinging soloist he was.
Stan’s quintet over-ran their allotted time on stage so Granz recorded more titles the following night producing enough material for a double album. Instead of his own drummer (Art Mardigan) Getz decided to use Frank Isola who had been on the tour with Mulligan’s quartet which of course led to problems. Years later Frank told me, “Jeru could be pretty stubborn and was upset that I had made the recording with Stan. He said it was unfair to Art Mardigan”. Mulligan remained on the west coast
after the concert so Frank who was anxious to return to his family in New York took the opportunity of joining Stan. The tenor-man had to hire drum kits as they worked their way back east because Gerry had apparently driven off with Frank’s drums in his station wagon.
Just as an aside, Leonard Feather’s 1956 Encyclopaedia Yearbook of Jazz asked 120 leading musicians to name their favourite instrumentalists. Stan voted for Lester Young, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Sonny Stitt on tenor. Mulligan was his choice on baritone. Never guilty of false modesty Gerry voted for himself on baritone along with Harry Carney. Don Byas, Young, and Sims were his tenor choices.
Late in 1957 they recorded two fine albums together which for different reasons could have been great ones. The session with Harry Edison and the Oscar Peterson Trio was released as Jazz Giants 1958 and there are several outstanding solo contributions. However Norman Granz’s decision to produce a relatively undisciplined blowing session when he had one of the music’s finest arrangers on hand means the recording falls a little short. Mulligan could have created something far more meaningful for the all-star ensemble to perform than the rudimentary head arrangements heard on the CD (Verve 0602517621320).
Another missed opportunity occurred two months later in October 1957 when they were reunited for the (in)famous Stan Getz Meets Gerry Mulligan date (Verve 392-2). A bizarre decision was taken to have two of the greatest soloists on their respective instruments performing on unfamiliar horns. On three numbers Gerry plays tenor and Stan is on baritone. Granz’s sleeve-note hints that it was Mulligan’s suggestion but Gerry told me, “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”.
It is impossible to identify them on their alternate horns as Ronnie Ross found when Leonard Feather played Anything Goes during a 1958 Blindfold Test in Down Beat, ”I didn’t know who the players were…I liked the tenor player very much and some of the baritone. It definitely swings. I’ll give it four stars”. The titles where they perform on their customary instruments contain some of their most extrovert, freewheeling work from the period and the extemporised, contrapuntal interplay that bookends That Old Feeling is an album highlight. A sympathetic producer like Dick Bank for instance might have created more suitable environments for them but this was to be their last studio recording together which is a pity.
By the end of the fifties they had become perennial poll winners and although such listings are of ephemeral interest it is worth recalling the 1959 Metronome All Time – All Star poll. The winner was Charlie Parker followed by Miles Davis; Gerry Mulligan; Lester Young; Louis Armstrong; Dizzy Gillespie; Stan Getz; Benny Goodman; Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck.
That Old Feeling