Posts Tagged ‘Mulligan/Baker’

Masterpiece: Mulligan/Baker

1 December 2008

[Today: Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker make sweet music together…]

Gerry Mulligan & Chet Baker | Mulligan/Baker

We’ve all been there: stuck in a job with a detestable co-worker, forced to be professional and put the interest of the team ahead of personal feelings. Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan were kind of like that. Both had ongoing drug problems, quick tempers, and a history of fantastically failed personal relationships. In spite of having so much in common, they didn’t like each other very much. But they obviously checked their feelings at the studio door, because the music they made together stands as a high water mark in the history of recorded Jazz.

The Gerry Mulligan Quartet of 1952 and 1953 was a piano-less band featuring Baker on trumpet and Mulligan on baritone sax, along with drums and bass. This was an unusual group configuration for the time, but it worked as well as Mulligan had envisioned – the lack of piano gave him and Baker the space to solo and play off one another. Unfortunately – and predictably – a 1954 drug bust put Mulligan on the sidelines, and the group ultimately broke up. Mulligan and Baker would reunite a handful of times over the next several decades, but none of their subsequent collaborations satisfy with the gusto of their early-50’s recordings.

Mulligan/Baker is a SPECIALLY PRICED TWO-RECORD SET† compiling 19 tracks that go well beyond just the piano-less Quartet of ’52 and ’53. The recordings gathered here represent one of the main templates of the “cool” West Coast strain of Jazz, but everyone else operating under that umbrella could only hope to capture a fraction of the sparks that Mulligan and Baker made together. They may have barely tolerated one another, but musically they were the best of friends.

Listen: Moonlight In Vermont [recorded January 1953]

Listen: My Funny Valentine [recorded September 1952]*


You digital/cd people are on your own here…
*Both MP3s taken from vinyl!

Masterpiece: The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, Volume 2

4 January 2008

[Today: Taking shelter from the storm…]

The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, Volume 2

The Bay Area is currently being battered by relentless rainfall and hurricane force winds. It’s pretty cold, wet and miserable outside, which makes being inside and warm just that much better. The P and I spent our evening running around doing errands in preparation for a weekend shuttered in. After the last bag of groceries had been hauled inside, we lit a fire and sat down to some reading, enjoying the clown-like antics of our two 6-month old kittens, Oscar and Willie. We’ve got a big stack of jazz records that are just begging to be listened to, and what better possible evening to take on such a project?

Sonny Clark set a pretty nice mood for a while, via Sonny’s Crib (thanks Dusty Groove/Chicago), and then Donald Byrd weighed in with Long Green – one of the great trumpet albums – the cat just blows. Then we heard from the Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quorum – and a fine pair they are. Mulligan/Baker was my “morning album” that I listened to every day for about 2 years straight (I could usually get through three sides of vinyl before scurrying off to work). Art Farmer held court for awhile with his excelllent collection Farmer’s Market. And then Jay Jay Johnson took the needle of our record player and made it swing. The guy plays slide trombone, but makes it sound like a muted trumpet – good good good.

Where our house sits, it sometimes feels like the winds are forming a giant cartoon fist and pummeling our sides, rattling windows, as well as people and animals. But tonight we’re all pretty cozy and content. The way 2007 flew past, the days kind of start blurring together and few stand out. So thanks for humoring me while I take a few hundred words to etch down one day and keep it for myself.

Listen: Pennies From Heaven (Alternate Take)