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"Joe Goldberg has the essential skills ol a writer of profiles he keeps the personalities of his subject alive and glowing And since his subjects are jazzmen, he understands that their personalities can be heard in their music."
— Martin Williams, author of The Jazz Tradition
"The 1950s was the last decade of the great jazz 'influencers ' Joe Goldberg chronicles them admirably, with equal insight into their lives on—and off— the bandstand "
—Ira Gitler, author of Jazz Masters of the 40s
The Fifties, though a quiescent period in many ways, was one of the most fervent decades in jazz history The landmarks of modern jazz were firmly planted and. it could be argued, nearly all directions the music has taken since then can be charted back to recordings, groups, or individuals from this era.
In this series of profiles. Joe Goldberg examines the lives and the muse, the crucial events and dominant forces of a decade of great music and conflicting esthetics Miles Davis's recording of Kind of Blue; Gerry Mulligan's pianoless quartet; Cecil Taylor's percussive keyboard experiments: John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins's marathon saxophone solos, the MJQ's blending of classical structure and jazz improvisation, Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz.
From Mingus to Monk to Blakey, it was an age of giants Perhaps never before or since m jazz history have so many wildly idiosyncratic jazz innovators been contemporaries.
Joe Goldberg was there and what his ears heard has become here a lasting music document.
And while we don’t agree with Joe’s assessments about West Coast Jazz as a style whose “... standard-bearers were ... single-minded and caught up in their pursuit of elusive ‘modernity’” or that “the music at its height [was diminished by a] self-imposed sterility,” his essay does contain many useful insights about Gerry and his career in the 1950s.
One could argue that if Jazz on the West Coast has so little to offer Gerry, why did Mulligan formed such a close working relationship with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims [from Los Angeles], Gil Evans [from Stockton, CA], and seek out the bassist Buddy Clark and drummer Mel Lewis who spent 1959-1962 as part of the Hollywood based Terry Gibbs Big Band to join him in New York as the first rhythm section for the Concert Jazz Band? He also asked Conte Candoli, then based in Los Angeles, to be a featured soloist on trumpet in the original CJB.
Not that it makes any difference but John Lewis was from New Mexico, Bob Brookmeyer was from Missouri and his long time bassist, Bill Crow, was originally from the state of Washington were also close associates of Gerry.
As to Art Farmer’s assertion - "I was the first one in the Quartet not from the West Coast group, so to speak" - Art was raised in Phoenix, AZ before moving in 1945 with his bassist brother Addison to the Watts area of Los Angeles where he made his first recordings with tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards in 1949.
Here’s Joe’s essay on Jeru.
"!N THOSE DAYS," drummer Baby Dodds once said of early New Orleans jazz, "the instrumentation was different. When I first started out they had no piano. They mostly used bass viola, guitar, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and drums. The guitar carried only rhythm in the bands. Actually you have a much sweeter jazz band when you have a guitar and no piano. In that way the drums couldn't outplay the other guys, because the drummer had to keep in touch with the guitars."
Since that time, jazz has evolved by adding some elements and dropping others. The classic swing rhythm section, Count Basie's, consisted of piano, guitar, bass, and drums. The bop revolution dropped the guitar, retaining it only as an occasional solo instrument.
In 1952, Gerry Mulligan, who has always had an affinity with several different eras of jazz, took the piano back out, and the result was the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, one of the most highly successful small groups of the fifties.
Mulligan, a tall, boyish, highly articulate man, knew exactly what he was doing and why: "The idea of a band without a piano is not new," he wrote in the notes to his first Pacific Jazz LP. "The very first jazz bands didn't use them (how could they? They were either marching or riding in wagons). . . To have an instrument with the tremendous capabilities of the piano reduced to the role of crutch for the solo horn was unthinkable ... I consider the string bass to be the basis of the sound of the group, the foundation on which the solo builds his I , the main thread around which the two horns weave their contrapuntal interplay. It is possible with two voices to imply the sound or impart the feeling of any chord or series of chords as Bach shows us so thoroughly and enjoyably in his inventions.
"When a piano is used in a group it necessarily plays the dominant role; the horns and bass must tune to it as it cannot tune to them, making it the dominant tonality. The piano's accepted function of constantly stating the chords of the progression makes the solo horn a slave to the whims of the piano player. The soloist is forced to adapt his line to the changes and alterations made by the pianist in the chords of the progression,
"It is obvious that the bass does not possess as wide a range of volume and dynamic possibilities as the drums and horns. It is therefore necessary to keep the overall volume in proportion to that of the bass in order to achieve an integrated group sound."
By 1959, the pendulum of taste had swung so far that the English critic Max Harrison could say of Mulligan's once-revered quartet that "its instrumentation threw emphasis on clear melodic expression and simple rhythmic construction. The resulting lack of tension was another attraction. Whereas artists like Tatum or Parker compel our attention with the hectic complexity of their work, the somewhat detached relaxation of the Mulligan Quartet entertains and even intrigues the listener without unduly involving him. Thus, audiences who failed to respond to the uncompromising attitude of bop or the Davis 1948 band were able, in listening to the Quartet, to congratulate themselves on their advanced taste while really experiencing quite straightforward music. . . . The air of rather smart disillusionment that surrounds interpretations like Funny Valentine would also be sympathetic to superficially sophisticated audiences."
In between the dates of those two quotations came a strange era of jazz, the "cool" music of the early fifties. Not at all strangely, now that the "cool" fad is over, those musicians who are still making a meaningful contribution are the same ones who started the movement: Miles Davis, Gil Evans, John Lewis, and Gerry Mulligan. The catalyst was the nine-piece Miles Davis band of 1949 and 1950.
"Gerry wrote the easiest arrangements," Miles Davis has said, "well, just a good sound. They were the only things that came off happy and good and quick. Gerry told me once that he was never able to get that same sound again."
Perhaps Mulligan's arrangements for the group did come off easily, but it was not because he had written something conventional and familiar. Indeed, critic Andre Hodeir has said that Mulligan's scoring of George Wallington's Godchild, along with Gil Evans' scoring of Davis' Boplicity, "directs jazz toward a language that seems to hold great potential riches." He further said that Mulligan's Jeru "boldly calls for a re-examination of form, construction, and meter."
Jazz musicians frequently borrow the so-called "song form," a European tradition actually, in which a great deal of American popular music is written. Its length is usually thirty-two measures of music delivered in four sections, each of which is eight measures long. There are usually two melodies in a "song," one called a "main strain," and the other called the "bridge" or "release." Most of us are quite familiar with the pattern, even though we may never have thought about it. For example, if we give each melody a letter, we come out with this sort of pattern for popular songs: AABA. Think of Embraceable You, Body and Soul, or hundreds of others. If a jazz musician uses such a familiar piece for improvisation, he will frequently abandon its melody, using only its outline as a basis for his improvising of new melodies. But that outline repeats regularly, over and over, as a soloist's invention flows along, much less regularly. Mulligan's scores for the Davis group not only broke down the rigidity of this song form, they broke through the usual rhythmic mold of jazz as well.
Hodeir elucidates it this way: "The exposition of Godchild drastically 'reconsiders' the traditional structure of this classical thirty-two-bar theme with bridge. The addition of first two beats and then four to the initial phrase makes the first period cover seventeen and a half bars instead of sixteen. The bridge, on the other hand, is half a bar shorter than customary. Only the final phrase keeps its original structure in the exposition. Jeru is still more revolutionary. It includes four choruses in all. The exposition begins in the traditional way with a double eight-bar phrase. The fact that the bridge has twelve bars would not be surprising in itself if five of them—from the fourth to the eighth—were not in 3/4 time. The reprise covers nine bars. Here, then, is an exposition with an uneven number of bars and beats. The same is true of the final re-exposition. Only the second chorus, which is set aside for Davis’ improvisation, is brought back to the customary proportions. The third has thirty-two bars also, but two of them, the fourth and twelfth, are in 2/4."
The real origin of the Davis band's style was in the sound of the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, for which both Gil Evans and Mulligan had written arrangements. Composer-arranger George Russell says that "the most important innovator of the fifties was Gerry Mulligan. He did away with the piano and wrote some fantastic pieces." Russell described to Nat Hentoff in The New Yorker something of Mulligan's mood at 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.' 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. . .. 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."
With that last comment, Russell accurately isolates the reason why Mulligan, Davis, Evans, and Lewis have remained, while the West Coast movement which sprang up in their wake has largely been forgotten. It has been pointed out several times that these four men are by no means West Coast musicians to begin with, but the question involves much more than geographical accident. The prime progenitor of West Coast jazz music was the Stan Kenton band in its Shorty Rogers-Shelly Manne days. Many of the players who came out of that band to become West Coast standard-bearers were so single-minded in their pursuit of elusive "modernity" that they often neglected to anchor their styles in anything more fruitful than the most easily assimilated licks of their direct predecessors. Fugues and atonal compositions were written, sometimes with a minimum of improvisation, and flutes, oboes, and cellos were employed. At the height of the self-imposed sterility of the music, the inevitable reaction set in, and in the late fifties albums by the better-known West Coast players began to appear that were heavily influenced by Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Horace Silver.
None of this, however, really affected Mulligan. Very early in the publicized stages of his career he arrived at what was, for him, a viable concept of jazz, and all the work he has done since has been a variation on that concept, even some scores he did for Kenton. He has said on several occasions that he deeply admired the work of trumpeter Red Nichols. Nichols, in an earlier era, was concerned, as it had become necessary for Mulligan to be, with the problem of finding what Max Harrison has termed "an ensemble style for white jazz." Nichols sounded much like Bix Beiderbecke, and at this point lineages begin to mesh. Beiderbecke's partner on several occasions was Frankie Trumbauer, the C-melody saxophonist whom Lester Young called "my idol." At a certain stage in jazz history, the names Lester Young and Basie are virtually synonymous, Young the sideman and Basie the pianist and leader combining to create a style of jazz that has been a predominant influence on most jazz and certainly many white saxophonists since. Young was a melodist, a horizontal thinker. Mulligan found it freer to explore melody in the absence of a piano — indeed, Young had made a few pianoless records himself.
Music has always been Mulligan's prime concern. Born Gerald Joseph Mulligan in Queens Village, Long Island, on April 6,1927, he began playing such youthful instruments as the ocarina and the ukulele, and took the piano lessons that are mandatory in many families. His father was a management engineer, forced to travel to where the job was, and Mulligan spent his youth in several different towns. He told Hentoff, in possibly romanticized fashion, that the real beginnings of his career occurred one day in Marion, Ohio. "I was on my way to school, when I saw the Red Nichols bus sitting in front of the hotel. I was in the second or third grade, and that 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."
His decision to become a jazz musician was greeted nowhere by shouts of joy; his first arrangement, for a school band in Michigan, was rejected because the song, Lover, was not thought proper material. At fourteen, he briefly decided to become a priest, but when he learned the realities of church music work, he abandoned the idea.
The first person to give him active encouragement was a former dance-band musician named Sammy Correnti, who taught Mulligan clarinet and the rudiments of arranging. In 1944, the family moved to Philadelphia, and Mulligan, now playing clarinet and tenor saxophone, organized a dance band in high school and sold two arrangements to the house band at radio station WCAU. He quit high school after his third year, because a band he had been playing with that summer was planning to go on a road tour. When the tour did not materialize, Mulligan got a thirteen-week arranging contract with Tommy Tucker, certainly no jazzman, and went on the road with him. At one point on the tour, he had an opportunity to hear the great band Billy Eckstine had at the time, and was greatly impressed with it. The experience caused Mulligan to change his arranging style to the extent that the conservative Tucker terminated their relationship at the end of the contract period. Returning to Philadelphia, Mulligan took a regular job as an arranger at WCAU, whose band was now led by Elliot Lawrence, and remained for about a year.
He began traveling back and forth between Philadelphia and New York, primarily to see a new friend, Charlie Parker, who was one of the few musicians to encourage him. By January 1946, he had settled in New York and became an arranger for Gene Krupa, who bad a substantial hit with Mulligan's Disc Jockey Jump.
That job lasted another year, after which he got the job arranging for Thornhill. A friendship began with Thornhill's chief arranger, Gil Evans, and the result was the long sessions of talk in Evans' apartment which eventually led to the Miles Davis recordings.
It was during this time in New York that Mulligan — an occasional user of marijuana since a Tommy Tucker sideman had introduced him to it, and arrested once for possession of it while walking down a Los Angeles street with Parker - found himself a prisoner of heroin. Both because of addiction and lack of steady work, the next years were chaotic ones for Mulligan, who has little to show for them but a Prestige LP and one famous arrangement for Stan Kenton, Young Blood. His subsequent rehabilitation, he says, was largely due to his friend Gale Madden. It was Miss Madden, he also says, who introduced him to the possibilities of the pianoless rhythm section.
Mulligan, then living in Los Angeles, formed a quartet based on that idea. In 1952, a young man named Richard Bock, press agent for a small Los Angeles club called The Haig, hired Mulligan to play at the sessions he was producing there on the club's off-night. Bock was sufficiently impressed
with the pianoless quartet to borrow enough money to record it. That was the beginning of Mulligan's success and also of Bock's company, Pacific Jazz Records.
That first Quartet, featuring trumpeter Chet Baker, was phenomenally successful. There is no telling what the group — a definite combination of right thing, right place, right time -might have achieved, but in September 1953, Mulligan was arrested on a narcotics charge, and went to prison until Christmas of that year. As one of Mulligan's friends recalls, "Chet met Gerry when he got out of jail and said, 'I want four hundred dollars a week.' This to a guy who'd just taken a bust and didn't have a job." That, of course, was the end of the Mulligan-Baker Quartet. Since then, Mulligan has led groups of various sizes and shapes, always searching carefully for sympathetic partners.
"You look for people to play with," he once wrote, "who have that same kind of attitude toward music as the older men you admired and learned from." Mulligan was committed to a style which has variously been called neo-Dixie and neo-swing, and he affirmed that counterpoint could be used in a modern jazz group without recourse to classical pastiche. "What I came back to," he has said, "is that jazz is a music to be played and not to be intellectualized on." He has also said, "Jazz music is fun to me."
It would seem to an observer that each of Mulligan's groups has stressed humor, counterpoint, and the pleasure of playing. But the players in the various Mulligan units have themselves insisted on the unique qualities of each separate group. Mulligan himself has said, "Each of my groups has had an entirely different sound and an entirely different effect on me." Some of the musicians who have been in and out of Mulligan's small units are saxophonist Zoot Sims, trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, trumpeter Jon Eardley, bassists Carson Smith and Bill Crow, and drummer Chico Hamilton.
Perhaps the Mulligan co-instrumentalist who most felt his own uniqueness was the trumpeter Art Fanner, who joined Mulligan in 1958 after two years with Horace Silver. "I was the first one in the Quartet not from the West Coast group, so to speak," Farmer says. "They talked about Red Nichols and others, and I had a whole different set of influences. It was hard for me at first. Not so much because there was no piano, but because the bass lines and Gerry playing behind you can pretty much direct your solo, and turn it in a different way than you would play it. It's easier for the baritone to play behind the trumpet than the reverse, because the baritone's lower, and I didn't play behind Gerry as much as some of the other guys did. We had some great nights with that group; we only made one record, and it doesn't tell you what we could do. I know the group changed when I was in it; I think maybe I changed Gerry's playing more than he changed mine."
In 1959, Farmer, who does not consider himself a big-band trumpet player, left the group because Mulligan was working toward the fulfillment of one of his long-cherished dreams; still considering himself to be more arranger than soloist, he wanted a big band for which to write.
In many ways, the Mulligan "Concert Jazz Band" which resulted was a direct outgrowth of the Quartets; the two major soloists were Mulligan and trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. Sometimes the band played behind the soloist the sort of contrapuntal line one man would have executed in the Quartet. The band also echoed the Miles Davis Capitol recordings, and used re-scorings of some of those 1949 pieces.
“The band represents a culmination of my career thus far," Mulligan said. "All I have learned over the years has been applied." But a lot had happened in the ten-year interval between the Davis and Mulligan bands, and the best summation of it was given by Brookmeyer, in a remark made to Martin Williams: "I was really beginning to feel that jazz was passing me by. The newest things I have heard in person - I go to listen to Ornette or George Russell's group and I love them. But playing like that is not possible for me. I feel the way I think Buck Clayton may have felt around 1947. I put on a Joe Turner record and it gives me a starting point, but the newer things make me feel I am finished, and I'll have to wait out the rest of my life making soft-drink jingles for television. This band puts me in jazz, making jazz music I can love and respect."
Brookmeyer's comment accurately points to the fact that not only Gerry Mulligan, but jazz itself, had become big business in the last decade. "Jazz, is a living," Brookmeyer says, and it has become a much better living since jazzmen have begun to be considered as candidates for work in die major radio, television, and motion picture studio orchestras.
As Martin Williams said, reviewing one of the Mulligan band's recordings in Down Beat, "This was, in effect, a studio band. Perhaps only a studio band of the best men could cut some of these arrangements." And so, in a sense, Mulligan has been dependent upon a new breed of jazz musician, new because he is able to read a difficult part in almost any style as well as improvise with individuality. Perhaps more than anyone else, the type is personified by sometime Concert Jazz Band trumpeter Clark Terry.
"Every band," says Mulligan bassist Bill Crow, "needs one or two guys like Clark or Zoot Sims, guys who can get up and do 'that thing' at will, create excitement and get everyone swinging. Clark has a very special talent. He can fit into any situation, play an original solo that's exactly what's called for in the piece, and end up in just the right place, so that it all fits in. That's why he's always in such demand."
Terry himself, a witty, urbane man in his early forties, is sufficiently realistic and astute to know that musical ability alone is not always enough. "You have to be something of a diplomat, too," he says. A veteran of the two most influential jazz bands we have had, those of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, he became an NBC-TV staff musician, one of the first Negroes to do so. "I'm sort of like Jackie Robinson," he says. "There could be trouble in a situation like that, and the fellows want to know not only how you play, but whether they can get along with you." Since joining NBC — he has been a member of the orchestra on both the Jack Paar and Johnny Carson versions of the Tonight Show — Terry has often logged as many as seven record dates a week, in situations varying from straight jazz recordings, through section work in large orchestras accompanying vocalists, to the most musically unrewarding commercial work. He is so much in demand that during any New York-based jazz recording made in the early sixties that consisted of seven or more men, the puckishly witty Terry trumpet might be heard. He is also exemplary because his reputation is largely confined to his fellow musicians and hard-core jazz fans. Since he no longer travels, many who admire his work have never seen him.
Another incident suggests the conditions in which Mulligan operates: in 1961, Terry and Brookmeyer, wishing to play jazz but unable to leave New York because of various commitments,, formed a joint quintet to play in Manhattan clubs whenever they could; the group usually included the drummer Gus Johnson. In April 1962, the Terry-Brookmeyer Quintet played New York's Half Note for two weeks; the following Tuesday, Terry, Brookmeyer, and Johnson were all part of the Mulligan Concert Jazz Band performing at Birdland. "Bob checked Gerry's schedule before he made the booking," bassist Bill Crow adds.
That Mulligan is able to exact such loyalty is one of the reasons he was able to attempt the band at the time he did. Drummer Mel Lewis, for instance, gave up lucrative work in the Hollywood studios to travel with him. Terry points "to one of the reasons: "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. He's not like one leader I worked for, who used to say, 'I want you guys to remember it's me they're paying to see.'" And the esprit he was able to instill is indicated by Brookmeyer: "We didn't want to make money, we wanted to prove a point. That there could still be a great big-band."
Those who pinned their musical hopes on the Mulligan band did so primarily for one reason: they expected new Mulligan arrangements. However, Mulligan contributed few scores to the book.
Since, as his friends say, Mulligan wanted the band so that he might write for it, the question is why he did not. "Maybe it's just a long dry season," Bill Crow says. "And then, there's so much involved with this band that he didn't know about. These days, the business is so complex that you have to hire a manager to talk to your agent. And then, it takes Gerry a long time to get himself together every day to do one or two things."
Most musicians are agreed on what constitutes Mulligan's major contribution to the band. "He's a great editor," Crow says. "You should see the way he changes charts, tightens them up. He knows exactly what he wants, and he wants a quiet band. He can swing at about fifteen decibels lower than any other band."
By not writing all the scores himself, Mulligan greatly benefited the young arranger, Gary McFarland. "I asked someone if it would be possible to submit an arrangement to the band," McFarland says, "and someone said, 'Call up Bob Brookmeyer, hell give you a straight answer.' He invited me to a rehearsal, and I took two pieces with me, Weep, and another piece called Chuggin’. Someone said, *You better take your scissors with you when you go up there.'
"I think Gerry taught me the greatest lesson I ever had, which is simply to make your point. An arrangement is something like an essay, and somewhere in there you have to come to the point, to say whatever it is you want to say. Those two arrangements don't sound now too much like they did when I brought them in. Gerry's a great editor, but I think business keeps him from writing himself. I get a good bit of work now, but it never would have happened if Gerry hadn't been so wise, generous and open minded about those first charts.
Mulligan himself has said, "What I've done in the fifties is not really new writing; it's based on what I wrote for Miles.” In recent years, his reputation has been achieved as a personality more than as a musician. Much of his energy has been devoted to proving that he can play with anyone; on records he has "met" Thelonious Monk (in a session which throws a harsh glare on Mulligan's rhythmic limitations), Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, and even the long-standing master of Mulligan's instrument, Harry Carney. His in-person appearances have been more varied. Well-known as one of the last of the musicians who love to play at any opportunity, he shows up at all manner of jazz festivals, and plays with members of any school or era with equal effectiveness — this with the exception of the most recent innovators, whom he says he has not had time to hear. One friend has said that Mulligan's former agent, Joe Glaser, was less concerned than he might have been with the fortunes of the big band because his primary objective was to groom Mulligan as a personality, a possible replacement when another Glaser client, Louis Armstrong, eventually retired. And he might not have made a bad choice. As Bill Crow says, "He's an unusual looking guy, a good talker, playing a very unusual instrument. A lot of the interest in him doesn't have much to do with music."
And many of Mulligan's interests have little to do with jazz. Crow says, "He's become one of the golden people, and that can be strong wine," referring to the show business elite, a loose-knit international group that exists on mutual exclamations of affection.
"Jazz," Mulligan says, "is only one of many things I want to do. I'd like to make another movie. And every once in a while, you just have to get away from all of it." An honest man, he is disturbed by the world of big business he now finds himself a part of. He is disappointed with most business dealings he has had with recording companies. Pointing to one example, he says, 'I had a group that was really hot, and I said, 'Let's make a record now.’ They said, 'There's no studio available.' Three weeks later, when we hadn't played or rehearsed, they called up and said, 'Do you want to record?'" He has fared little better with many clubs, but one man in particular remains his friend: Max Gordon, owner of New York's Village Vanguard. The Vanguard is Mulligan's unofficial home base, and he can be found there when either he or the club has an open week, playing more exuberantly than ever, his long, lean body seeming to describe his own melodic twists, still rapping out his own acerbic comments to the audience: "You'll have to excuse us. We're progressives. We have to change the chords. The only chords that are popular are the ones you can hang yourself with."
Toward the end of 1962, Mulligan, who simply stops work and retreats from public life whenever he feels like it, began accepting more and more engagements. He was apparently welcome, for he began appearing in New York clubs other than the Vanguard. Once again he had a quartet, this time with Brookmeyer, Crow, and drummer Gus Johnson. Mulligan, Crow, and Brookmeyer are men ideally suited to work together: mordantly witty, often bitter men, none of them makes his living exclusively from jazz, and all are professionals more than artists. Mulligan, especially, can stand backstage at a club, enraged at something which has just occurred, and five minutes later walk out on the bandstand and play as if he were the happiest man in the world. His charming, often poignant melodic lines and personal harmonies have made him one of the great popularizers in jazz; it is no wonder that Mulligan records and the Ella Fitzgerald "song books" are side by side in many "aware" homes. Seemingly one can have, with his music, all the pleasures of being involved without paying the inevitable price of true involvement. Which is not to say that Mulligan lacks conviction; he obviously does not. Very few musicians are capable of presenting a naked emotional experience in jazz, and few listeners can take it if offered. Mulligan himself seems to come closest on the rare occasions when he plays piano, and, significantly, Art Farmer says, "He only plays piano when he's bugged."
Probably, Mulligan's ultimate reputation will be as a writer, mentor, and organizer. He is a superb catalyst: musicians love to play with him, often play better in his company, and the list of excellent musicians with great regard for him encompasses such diverse men as Miles Davis, Paul Desmond, Rex Stewart, and George Russell. He may be one of those men who, more by example than deed, helped shape the course of jazz.
In the meantime, Mulligan, still a young man, has a long career ahead of him. With his wide range of interests and accomplishments, and his dislike of specialization, it is difficult to speculate on what direction that career might take. Brookmeyer, a close friend who seems essential to Mulligan's musical and personal well-being, once said of a famous bandleader, "It must be a terrible thing, living in your own shadow." In one sense, that remark could apply to Mulligan. But he is certain to endure as a personality. He once told Nat Hentoff of his reverence for George M. Cohan: "I've always been a sucker for the debonair, big-time, old-style show business attitude," he said.
Which comes close to defining the embodiment of the jazz musican-as-craftsman: debonair, big-time, old-style Gerry Mulligan.”
Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker, WORLD PACIFIC 1207.
Gerry Mulligan Quartet, FANTASY 3220.
What Is There To Say?, COLUMBIA CL 1307.
Gerry Mulligan and the Concert Jazz Band at the Village Vanguard,
VERVE V-83g6. Gerry Mulligan Quartet, VERVE V-8466.