In December 1957, Pacific Jazz's Dick Bock came to New York for several weeks of a marathon recording schedule that included dates by Bob Brookmeyer and Chet Baker as well as four Gerry Mulligan sessions, all of which reflected a great deal of creative conceptualization and planning.
The first project was a reunion of Gerry and Chet Baker. The quartet with Henry Grimes and Dave Bailey recorded enough material for two albums, though only one was issued at the time. By no means nostalgic, Mulligan and Baker take a fresh approach to material they'd never tackled before.
The crown jewel of this set is The Gerry Mulligan Songbook, released on CD in stereo here for the first time. Bill Holman arranged six celebrated Mulligan compositions from various stages of his career for a sublime sax section that consisted of Lee Konitz, Allen Eager, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Mulligan, superbly anchored by Freddie Green, Grimes and Bailey. Mulligan wrote and arranged a seventh for the occasion. The writing and solos are excellent throughout. The stereo and mono versions of three tunes differ and all versions are included.
The most unusual date here is the one with the Vinnie Burke String Quartet, which consists of guitar, violin, cello and bass, with Mulligan and Dave Bailey. Eight of the nine selections were slated to come out as Stringtime, a cover was created, but the album never materialized, although four tunes later appeared on CD. The strings with pizzicato violin and cello on the melodies add a light, open texture to the arrangements.
Annie Ross Sings A Song Of Mulligan was the first and best of three albums that this extraordinary singer made for World Pacific. Her unerring sense of pitch and musicianship made her ideal for jazz settings, especially one such as this with no chordal instrument to provide a tonal center. At the December sessions, she plays with the reunion quartet and, in September 1958, with Mulligan's then current quartet with Art Farmer, Bill Crow and Bailey. Six bonus tracks have been added to the album.
These four wide-ranging projects recorded in the space of two weeks glimpse the enormous palette from which Gerry Mulligan drew throughout his career.
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