Legends Live – Gerry Mulligan Sextet
Jazz Haus 101-725
180 GRAM VINYL + FREE DIGITAL DOWNLOADSide A Length
For An Unfinished Woman 09:49
Line For Lyons 06:24
Taurus Moon 08:18Side B Length
My Funny Valentine 05:29
Four For Three 06:33
K-4 Pacific 12:34
Gerry Mulligan (baritone saxophone)
Thomas Fay (piano)
Mike Santiago (guitar)
Dave Samuels (vibraphone)
George Duvivier (bass)
Bobby Rosengarden (drums).
I consider myself to be a casual fan of Mulligan. I’m certainly no expert. Unlike Coltrane, who has generated an entire card catalog of books and articles, Mulligan is almost taken for granted. If not for his association with Miles Davis, he wouldn’t receive as much attention as he does. Like Coltrane (and unlike Miles), Mulligan continued growing and developing as a musician, only limited by his age and failing health. The modernity of these tracks is eye-opening. Birth of the Cool, these recordings aren’t.
“For An Unfinished Woman” has one of the most beautifully phrased Bari Sax solos I’ve heard. I qualify it with the Bari Sax label because it takes more air to play this big instrument, compared to a Soprano Sax. When you hear Mulligan, you immediately recognize he’s the equal of his peers on Alto and Tenor. His playing isn’t a novelty act, a plate spinning routine to give the rest of the guys a few minutes rest. He’s the real deal, and you hear it in his phrasing. Phrasing is the last bit of musicianship that most people never get because they haven’t mastered the technical and mental aspects of playing. This solo is brilliant.
The brilliant Bari solo is followed by a suave solo on guitar and a virtuosic vibraphone performance. Not in a negative way, the performance and sound reminded me of something you might find on ECM in the mid ‘70s. That’s actually a compliment. I love ECM.
“Line For Lyons” has a slightly nostalgic flavor, and sounds like Mulligan from the ‘60s. The Bari solo is angular, with a hard bop feel. Still, while angular, it is smooth and relaxed. The playing at the top of the register is unforced and sweet. He’s in total control of this unwieldy instrument. The short guitar solo is nice, leaving me wanting more. There is an extended bass solo on this track that is very interesting. Most bassists are stuck to the chords. Duvivier’s playing has tonal imagination.
“Taurus Moon” features Mulligan on the Soprano Sax. It’s a swinging affair, sounding as if it went back another 10-15 years. “My Funny Valentine” is fresh, deep and passionate. This well worn standard sounded like a new song, not the hundredth time I’ve heard it.
“Four For Three” has a afro-cuban or Caribbean feel. It swings brightly, with an effusive quality. The vibe solo is brilliant, showing his ability to play with chords and long lines, like a pianist. He sounds like he has an extra arm at times.
“K-4 Pacific” was very contemporary for the ‘70s. I was so caught up in the tune and ensemble playing, that I didn’t make notes on the solos. It goes without saying that the solos are excellent.
Jeru, the Modern
The first and last tracks are worth the price of admission. These tunes travel all over, visiting several different styles, showing the resourcefulness of the players. What most surprised me, the casual Mulligan fan, is how fresh and contemporary these performances still sound. Unlike some cheesy recordings from the late ‘60s through the ‘70s, this is serious jazz, without gimmicks or compromise. While the players visit older styles and tunes, they never sound like they are “mailing it in.” Every tune is played with passion (and an attention to detail you don’t often hear). It’s easy to recommend this recording. Though I’m offering it as an afterthought, the sound is as good as the playing. This record is a treat and recommended for serious jazz listeners.
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