Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sidney Bechet

© -Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.


The editorial staff at JazzProfiles often learns along with its readers regarding the musicians featured on these pages.

Such was the case with Sidney Bechet [1897-1959], about whom we knew very little other than he was one of the early makers of the music and about whom many Jazz musicians had a high regard.

Perhaps it was because Sidney left for France [he lived there from about 1925-1932] so early in his career and was out of the American public’s eye [ear?] during some of the important, formative years of Jazz [Thankfully, before he left town, he did make some wonderful recordings with Louis Armstrong and Earl “Fatha” Hines].

Even after his return, it seems that Sidney’s music never did catch on here and Bechet relocated to France in 1950 after performing as a soloist at the Paris Jazz Fair. His performance at the fair resulted in a surge in his popularity in France. After that, Bechet had little problem finding well-paid work in France. He died there in 1959.

In searching out information about Sidney Bechet, this fine essay by Martin Williams, the distinguished Jazz author and critic, proved extremely helpful as a starting point about Bechet’s music and his importance to Jazz.

Rough and ready and somewhat of a rogue, Sidney would have been the perfect symbol of the USA Jazz Age run riot had he not spent so much of the Roaring Twenties in another country.

Sidney Bechet: First and Last

“Sidney Bechet's earliest recordings come from mid-1923, and they offer a fully developed musician. Fully developed not only because he played with power and authority, but also because we know from his biography that by then he had been a star soloist for some years, and because the elements and resources of his style can be heard on those records, elements that changed very little over the years. Yet Bechet did some of his most challenging recording work in 1957, the year before his death, collaborating with French pianist Martial Solal, effectively interpreting, ornamenting, and improvising on a repertory of standard songs which few of his New Orleans contemporaries would have undertaken in the first place, and which none of them, not even Jimmy Noone, could have handled so confidently.

By the time of those 1923 records, Bechet had taken up the soprano saxophone, had mastered that difficult instrument, and had come to prefer it to the clarinet. At a time when jazz saxophonists were apt to be shallow, fleet-fingered, slap-tongued virtuosi, Bechet's work must have come as a revelation of eloquence, depth, and elegance of musical phrase. On Kansas City Man Blues,, he even used some horse whinneys (derived no doubt from New Orleans cornetist Freddy Keppard) and brought them off with dignity. And within a few months, Bechet had recorded not only passionate slow blues and faster stomps, but an exceptional ballad solo on Old Fashioned Love. There is no question of Bechet's rhythmic verve, confidence, and swing as a jazz player. He understood the relaxed, legato New Orleans phrasing that Armstrong's predecessors introduced so tentatively and that Armstrong himself elaborated so brilliantly. And although there was an occasional fleeting echo in Bechet of the clipped accents of the previous decade, it diminished over the years.

The year of Bechet's earliest recordings is the year in which New Orleans Negro jazz began to be recorded regularly, but Bechet's soprano saxophone style already represents an important step within that music. He based his work on that instrument on a combination of the lead style of the cornet or trumpet and on the clarinet's obbligato in the New Orleans ensemble. Bechet therefore needed to take the lead voice in the polyphonic ensemble, and he gave problems to trumpeters throughout his career. There are two 1924-25 recordings of Cake Walkin* Babies which also feature the young Louis Armstrong. On the first (labeled the "Red Onion Jazz Babies") Bechet is uncannily responsive in polyphony and all poised excitement in his breaks. On the second (by "Clarence Williams Blue Five") Bechet's breaks again are statements in controlled excitement, but the climax of the performance is awarded to Armstrong in solo.


A 1938 session involved Bechet's lead with Ernie Caceres's baritone saxophone in obbligato, and it is particularly successful on What a Dream. Trumpeters were usually wise not to compete with him (but, alas, some of them did), and this is quite evident in some 1940 duets with cornetist Muggsy Spanier. Spanier did not push the limits of his resources but remained his simple self, and some of the resultant interplay between the two horns is exceptionally effective.

A unique expression of sympathetic, integrated New Orleans polyphony can be heard on Blues of Bechet. By an early example of overdubbing (done before the days of tape and therefore done on successive acetate discs by means of full studio playbacks) Bechet himself plays variously clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, piano, bass, and drums.

We owe Blues of Bechet to Bechet's 1940-41 association with Victor records and his various pick-up groups which were given the unpretentious collective name of the "New Orleans Feetwarmers." There were some earlier 1932 Feet-warmers recordings, but I confess that they seem to me to have more uninhibited energy than ensemble swing or musical success. However, Bechet evidently did find the atmosphere inspiring at least for the first half of Maple Leaf Rag. And in the opening section of Shag he offered the first non-thematic use on records of the I Got Rhythm chord progression.

The 1940-41 Feetwarmers series contributed the plaintive re-make of Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning. And it offered Blues in Thirds with Bechet in the company of Earl Hines, a pianist whose relative sophistication was, of course, no deterrent. Between them, Hines and Bechet also worked out a beautifully paced arrangement of Hines's fine little piece.

The Feetwarmers series also offered at least one ensemble which works because of a subdued trumpeter (I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll, with Gus Aiken). The Ellington pieces Bechet did for Victor (The Mooche, Stompy Jones, Old Man Blues, Mood Indigo) may not all be among the best of the series, but they do remind of one of the great losses in the recorded repertory: it was Bechet's passionate presence in Ellington's early Kentucky Club orchestra that helped the pianist find his way as a bandleader and composer, and no aural evidence of that historic association has survived.


Bechet's Victor When It's Sleepy Time Down South has a lovely non-thematic half-chorus on soprano saxophone. Such improvisation was of course not at all beyond his inventive powers; he is equally inventive on Sweet Sue in the Spanier duets, and there is a 1947 showpiece treatment of Just One of Those Things. Indeed, Bechet seems to have loved Cole Porter (he also left us a strong Love for Sale and an eloquently simple reading of What Is This Thing Called Love?), and that, in turn, reminds us of his—and Porter's—understanding of major-minor relationships. Bechet also loved Puccini, and that should not surprise us either.

Bechet recorded intermittently for Blue Note in 1939 and regularly in 1944-45. The results included his affecting showpiece Summertime and his slow blues clarinet masterpiece, Blue Horizon.

Sidney Bechet was not always the sublime soloist he was at his best, of course, and there was a banal, turn-of-the-century sentimental streak in him that occasionally showed in his choice of showcase material (Song of Songs) or in the trite, bravura endings he was so fond of. And if, on the whole, his ornaments and his inventions do not show the sustained originality and imagination of an Armstrong, nor of Armstrong's best successors, one should not expect that of him. He was true to the limits of his style and truly creative within them.

He was an eloquent musician, a musician whose range could encompass the fundamental passion of Blue Horizon, the elegant simplicity of What Is This Thing Called Love?, and the unpretentious invention on Sleepy Time Down South. And he was a pioneer jazzman who could collaborate, late in his career, with Martial Solal with singular success especially on It Don't Mean a Thing, Rose Room, and The Man I Love.

My praise of his eloquence, as well as my occasional reservations about his taste, is ultimately subjective of course. And I will conclude my comments even more personally. It has been said that Bechet's strong, constant wide vibrato is an acquired taste. For me, it was a taste I willingly acquired without thought as a teenager. And it was one night in 1949 or 1950 in Philadelphia when I saw Bechet play, and watched as the man, the instrument, the sounds, the emotion—all of these became by some magic process one thing, one aesthetic whole. I think it was then that I was first in touch with the essential miracle of music.”

The following video features Sidney along with Clarence Williams on piano on Kansas City Man Blues.


Monday, April 20, 2015

The "Complete" Gerry Mulligan Sextet

© -Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.


"In some ways I think Gerry was happier with that band [the sextet] than with any other. It had the elements of a big band with the elements of a small band and yet with discipline. The sextet speaks for itself. The way the four horns played together - the free, contrapuntal style. That isn't done too often and when it's done it's usually on a session or one-time basis, but that was the band, and the premise of the band, it's very hard to get four people who can do that and even harder to get people -you have to have Gerry and Zoot to do that night after night and make it interesting and they were the foundation of everything. And all the brass section had to do, really, was to add to that."
- Bob Brookmeyer, valve trombonist

"The Gerry Mulligan sextet was a once-in-a-lifetime band: heavy-weight soloists with a very hip rhythm team, reacting and interacting within a framework that reflected Gerry's balance of discipline and ardor."
- Ira Gitler, Jazz author, critic

In its various iterations, The Gerry Mulligan Sextet was a relatively short-lived group. Actually, in retrospect, its approximately two years of existence may have been about the same or even a little more than the average tenure of a Jazz group; perhaps it is just wishful thinking on my part that the group’s tenure would be longer because I was such a great fan of its music.


Sextets have been fairly commonplace in Jazz throughout its history, although perhaps not configured in the way that Gerry’s was without a piano [or a guitar] leaving the bass with a greater responsibility to develop a harmony line and frame the chords upon which the horns based their solos.


With a front line made up of trumpet, valve trombone, tenor saxophone and baritone all arranged by Gerry around themes penned from his magical, compositional mind, The Gerry Mulligan Sextet was one of the most unique sounding groups in Jazz history.


It was also the forerunner of Gerry’s Concert Jazz Band of the 1960s and most likely also the basis for some of the sounds and feels of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and the Village Vanguard Monday Night Jazz Orchestra [not to detract in any way from Thad Jones’ immense contributions to the band he shared with Mel and the influence he had on the later Vanguard Jazz Orchestras].


I have always found LP liner notes and/or CD insert notes to be a great source of information about the music and its makers.


Here is an assemblage of those pertaining to The Gerry Mulligan Sextet as a way of introducing you to the group, if you are not familiar with its recorded work, or as a means of reminding you of its brilliance if you haven’t listen to its music in a while.



PRESENTING   THE   GERRY   MULLIGAN
SEXTET
LINER NOTES TO MG-36056


“Gerry Mulligan is a tall (6’1”), thin (145 Ibs.), young man with light red hair, pale skin, and an intense dedication toward all that interests him in life. Nothing interests him more than music. At the age of 28 Gerry has been a professional musician for twelve years. In that time of constantly writing for big bands and small he has never written an un-commissioned piece of music. Simultaneously he has become a world famous baritonist, for it may be truly said that on baritone saxophone Gerry Mulligan has no peer.


Gerry's ever present nemesis is a fear of musical stagnation and boredom, and this has served to drive him to move his talents from band to band, playing with and writing for various instrumentations. It was because of this drive that last year, at the completion of a successful concert tour, Gerry disbanded the quartet and took six months off to sit down, regain his perspective, and see what it was he wanted to do next. Gerry's sextet is the product of that introspective period. It brings together Bob Brookmeyer and John Eardley, each of whom has served as the other horn in the Quartet; a bright new rhythm section consisting of Dave Bailey on drums and Peck Morrison on bass, and adds to this the tang of loot Sims' ever swinging tenor saxophone playing. Crowning the group is Gerry's forceful and persuasive musicianship showing itself in his writing and in his playing, both, as ever, warm, intimate, compelling.


Gerry detests having an audience told whether or not a record is good, preferring that his audience judge for themselves. This we leave you to do, merely saying that all who were concerned with the making of this album are delighted with the results.


The sextet has played nearly all the jazz clubs on the eastern seaboard, completed a concert tour through many of the eastern and midwestern cities, and is scheduled to do a European tour. Then Gerry will undoubtedly retire again, seeking the direction of the next step in his musical journey. I am sure that he himself does not know exactly what it will be. But one thing's for sure; more music will be coming from Gerry Mulligan. Much more.”



MAINSTREAM
GERRY MULLIGAN SEXTET
LINER NOTES TO MG-36101


Mainstream may seem to be an unlikely title for this album. The fact is that its use is a significant and encouraging illustration of the progress jazz has made during the past decade; for the very music and musicians were considered by many critics in the middle and late 1940s to be part of a side-stream or even an unrelated whirlpool can now claim to have entered the main body of the direction in which jazz is flowing. Their innovations, far from the abstract and dissonant distortions that they seemed to be not so many years ago in the ears of some of their less perceptive audiences, now seem like a very natural part of the essence of contemporary jazz.


Gerry Mulligan's attitude toward music is in line with these developments. Though an uncompromising modernist, he has always remained firmly rooted in the harmonic and rhythmic origins of jazz and its improvisational elements. As an arranger for big bands he has often displayed characteristics that seem to stem from the best of the swing era writers. It is significant that his vote in the "Musicians' Musician" poll in The Encyclopedia Yearbook of Jazz named Duke Ellington, Ralph Burns, Gil Evans, Bobby Sherwood, Eddie Sauter, and Bill Finegan as his favorite arrangers. Similarly in improvisation his tastes and knowledge reflect an awareness of the entire history of jazz rather than simply the recent developments. Red Nichols ranked along side by side with Dizzy Gillespie among his selected trumpet men, just as the late Irving Fazola shared Gerry's clarinet vote with Benny Goodman.


The present sextet represents, in Gerry's view, the outgrowth of a lengthy and time-consuming effort to get the right feel with a group of this kind on records. "We tried for a year and a half," he recalls, "to get what I was really looking for with the sextet. That kind of feeling between the men comes after a while."


The format and general approach of the sextet is similar to that of the previous long play, MG36056. Members of the group are as follows:Mulligan, baritone
sax (also piano on Root Blues); Zoot Sims, tenor sax; Jon Eardley, trumpet on Mainstream and Ain't It the Truth; Don Ferrara, trumpet on other titles; Bobby Brookmeyer, trombone; Bill Crow, bass; Dave Bailey, drums.


Elevation, the opening tune, is the perfect prototype of what Gerry was aiming at, and succeeded in accomplishing, on this date. The opening and closing theme is a 12-bar blues which he wrote during his teens in Philadelphia. It was later featured by the Elliot Lawrence band when Gerry first came to New York. In this new performance, as Gerry points out, "We got into a real stomping feeling and all the guys fell into the right groove, that juke-box-Saturday-night sort of mood." Gerry's role as Pied Piper in some of the ensemble choruses here produces from the group a remarkable quality of sounding spontaneous, yet arranged; riff backgrounds develop and soloists come and go as if this were a party held in the hi-fi equipped apartment of a group of professional minded readers.


Mainstream, another Mulligan original, opens with a similarly astonishing counterpoint between Gerry and loot, "Jon played especially well here," recalls
Gerry. It is interesting to note, incidentally, the "old-time modern" sound of Eardley's horn, which may sound to some like a resuscitated Bix. Brookmeyer's burry sound and inimitable phrasing are again in evidence, making a major contribution as they do throughout the set.


Ain't It the Truth, which closes the first side, is a simple, swinging original written some fifteen years ago by Buster Harding, an arranger with the old Count Basie Band.was composed by Jerry Lloyd, a trumpeter heard around New York recently with the Zoot Sims combo.


Root Blues is a completely informal performance in which Gerry goes over to the keyboard to swing with a rolling, headshaking beat that he communicates brilliantly to his cohorts. Weaving in and out of the solo spotlight, he focuses it on all the horns, as well as on bassist Bill Crow, then takes over himself again for a fadeout ending. The intimate blues portrait enables you almost to see the musician's mind at work.


Lollypop is a composition credited to two west coast musicians, drummer Chico Hamilton and pianist Gerry Wiggins. Taken at a bright tempo, it has a wonderfully loose feel both in the horn solos and in the walking bass. Drummer Dave Bailey has a couple of effective snare breaks here.


One important overall impression that you may derive from listening to these sides is that Gerry Mulligan will never be a captive of formalized, over pretentious jazz. Any situation in which the musicians have to worry about reading the music correctly than about developing an interrelationship, common ensemble mood, would be repellent to him; for individuality, rather than any contrived ingenuity, is a sine qua non of mainstream jazz.


MAINSTREAM GERRY MULLIGAN SEXTET
VOLUME TWO
JAPANESE EMARCY LINER NOTES TO 195J-35


Gerry Mulligan once described the origin of his love affair with jazz as happening when he was a child in Marion, Ohio. He was walking to school one day when he
came upon Red Nichol's bus parked in front of a hotel. He doesn't remember whether he was a second or third grader but he does know that it was the first time he felt he wanted to play in a band. It was a small, old Greyhound bus with a canopied observation platform," he reminisced, "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."


Mulligan had been somewhat used to travel because his father, a management engineer, had to move his family around to where his jobs took him. Born in Queens Village, Long Island on April 6, 1927, Gerry grew up in Michigan as well as Ohio before moving to Philadelphia in 1944.


In Michigan he wrote his first arrangement - a chart on Lover -  for a school band. It was turned down not because of its merit. They didn't even get to that. The nature of the material was not considered fit for scholastic consumption. Gerry Mulligan was too hip.


After studying clarinet and basic arranging with a former big-band musician named Sammy Correnti, he began his active career by organizing a dance band in high school and selling two arrangements to Philadelphia's radio station WCAU for use by its house band. But three years of high school were it for Gerry (he managed to become extremely erudite nevertheless) when he left to ostensibly tour with a local band that had ambitions beyond the regional. This venture never developed but a three-month arranging contract with Tommy Tucker did ("Now lovely Amy Arnell will sing I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire.") and he was on the road anyway, but not as a player.


While on location with Tucker in Chicago he encountered that volcanic modern monster, the Billy Eckstine band, and was sufficiently turned around so that Tucker began to complain he was spending more time listening to Mr. B than the organization that was paying his freight. It was inevitable that his pact would not be renewed.


Back in Philadelphia he was hired by WCAU as staff arranger and became associated with Elliot Lawrence, the conductor of the studio orchestra. He met Charlie Parker who encouraged him as an instrumentalist. In 1946 he began writing for Gene Krupa's orchestra (Disc Jockey Jump was recorded in early 1947) and this was followed by work for Claude Thornhill where he came into contact with Thornhill's chief arranger Gil Evans. Gerry has said of Claude: "He'd play everything with that kind of subtlety that requires the most control. It's easy to play loud. It was a challenge to play softly and still have guts and vitality. That's where I learned from him."


As for Evans, he sent Mulligan a postcard telling him that he might as well save his train fare and move to New York. (From his first days with Krupa he had become a frequent commuter.) Gerry acted on Gil's suggestion and some of the seeds for the Miles Davis nonet were planted for harvesting a few years later. The Davis band first recorded in 1949 featuring Gerry's arrangement on his own Jeru and George Wellington's Godchild. (Lawrence recorded Mulligan's Elevation, and his arrangement of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea in that same year.)

During this period of the mid and late '40s, Gerry was beginning to blossom as a baritone saxophonist, sitting in and sessioning whenever he could. He played and recorded with Davis and then became a member of Kai Winding's sextet, along with the trombonist and tenor saxophonist Brew Moore. Then Mulligan tried his hand at organizing his own ensembles, one of which recorded for Prestige in 1951 utilizing two baritones. In the rhythm section on maracas was a lady named Gale Madden. She was quite avant garde, wearing a t-shirt that indicated she had burned her bras behind her. According to Gerry it was she who influenced him to drop the piano from his bands. This was implemented in Los Angeles in 1952 when Mulligan and Chet Baker, Bob Whitlock and Chico Hamilton played at a club called the Haig.


A recording of Bernie's Tune launched the Pacific Jazz label and, in effect, the West Coast jazz movement because of the attention it focussed on the LA. scene. West Coast jazz came to be known as a synonym for pallid, watered-down expression but Mulligan's music has always transcended any categories in which people tried to trap it. The success Gerry began to enjoy at that time was not limited to the period and geographic location where it started.


When Baker formed his own quartet, Mulligan recruited valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer as his co-counterpointer-interacter. Since both Gerry and Bob are also pianists, this allowed the re-introduction of the keyboard at certain times as an occasional spice, in 1954 trumpeter Jon Eardley replaced Brookmeyer for a tour which placed the Mulligan quartet alongside the Dave Brubeck quartet and the Duke Ellington orchestra. At tour's end, in December, Brookmeyer happened to be in L.A. at the same time, playing with Zoot Sims at the Haig. On December 14, Zoot and Bob joined the Mulligan quartet for a conceit at Hoover High School in San Diego and the Mulligan sextet was born, it wasn't to become a working reality until 1955. After the San Diego conceit Gerry broke up the quartet and returned to New York to write new music and plan for the immediate future. At the beginning of the summer he sent for Zoot who joined him at the Newport Jazz Festival, taking part in the famous set with Gerry, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis in which Miles made his "comeback." The formation of the sextet followed.


Ralph J. Gleason, reviewing the group's second album in down beat, wrote: The sextet perhaps may be the ideal form for Mulligan to work with. His seminal researches into rhythmic devices, evident in the quartet, have been developed to a greater extent here and in a much freer form than with a big-band book. There are times, usually an interlude toward the end of a number, when he is able to direct the horns into a boiling and bubbling stew which can raise me right off the floors


In 1977, twenty years after Gleason's review, Bob Brookmeyer told me: "In some ways I think Gerry was happier with that band than with any other. It had the elements of a big band with the elements of a small band and yet with discipline. The sextet speaks for itself. The way the four horns played together - the free, contrapuntal style. That isn't done too often and when it's done it's usually on a session or one-time basis, but that was the band, and the premise of the band, it's very hard to get four people who can do that and even harder to get people -you have to have Gerry and Zoot to do that night after night and make it interesting and they were the foundation of everything. And all the brass section had to do, really, was to add to that."


This seems overly modest on Brookmeyer's part but the Mulligan-Sims team was something special. Gerry remembers being anxious to meet Zoot after reading an article in Orchestra World about the Bobby Sherwood band. When he heard Sherwood, however, Sims was no longer with him. Gerry did meet Zoot's brother, Bobby, in Ike Carpenter's band. Later, when Zoot came east with Woody Herman, he and Gerry became acquainted and found that they were very compatible. In 1949, after Zoot left Woody, the two saxophonists spent many hours jamming informally and developed an even deeper rapport. In March of 1950 they recorded Mulligan's So What with Chubby Jackson. It later became known, permanently, as Apple Core.


Brookmeyer, after coming out of Kansas City in the early '50s to play with several big bands (including Thornhill and Herman), had been with the Stan Getz quintet in 1953 before his first alliance with Mulligan.


Jon Eardley, from Altoona, PA, had played with the Buddy Rich and Gene Williams' bands before really emerging in jazz society at the Sunday night Open Door sessions in Greenwich Village and in a quintet with Phil Woods.


The way the band acquired its rhythm section is an example of the spontaneity in jazz that extends beyond the actual playing. Mulligan was rehearsing a tentet and one of the trumpeters was Idrees Sulieman. He invited Peck Morrison to the rehearsal and Peck, in turn, asked Dave Bailey to come down with him. The scheduled bassist and drummer - Oscar Pettiford and Osie Johnson - didn't show (Pettiford had departed for Europe) and Idrees suggested Peck when Gerry's dilemma became apparent. When it was asked if there was a drummer in the house, Bailey remembers, "Peck said, 'There's a drummer, and that's how I began my 13 years with Gerry."


It was the first time Bailey had played without a piano. "I guess my salvation was Peck Morrison," he says, "He and I worked very well together as a rhythm team. After we got the gig we said we have to get married musically. We felt time pretty much the same."


Peck says: "That band gave Dave a chance to express himself. And he never looked back after that."


Bear in mind that all the tracks in this LP have never been released before. The seven-minute Blues that opens the proceedings finds Mulligan at the piano playing an introductory setting for the first solo by Sims, who is followed by Eardley and Brookmeyer. Then Gerry returns for a longer keyboard outing, leading into a three-horn rideout in which Sims is prominent.


The Lady Is A Tramp is notable for the sextet's way with counterpoint. Solo order is Eardley, Sims, Brookmeyer, and Mulligan, this time on baritone. Bailey's brushwork whisks everything along.


Eardley wrote the line on Sweet Georgia Brown and called it Demanton because it was "not named" when he first recorded it under his own leadership for Prestige in March 1955. Solos here are by Sims, Eardley, Brookmeyer, and Mulligan. In the original Emarcy release of this number, only Gerry and Jon got to solo.


Ever since Lester Young recorded Broadway with Count Basie in 1940, it has been a favorite tune of a certain group of musicians. Sims and Mulligan used to jam on it in the '40s and have included it in their respective and collective repertoires from that time. Solo order: Sims, Eardley, Brookmeyer, Mulligan, Morrison.


A short version of Sweet and Lovely finds Mulligan, Sims and Eardley carrying the melody, in turn, through the first chorus. In the improvisatory chorus the order is Mulligan, Brookmeyer, and Eardley, before Mulligan closes out with the melody.


Bernie's Tune is the minor-key swinger by Bernie Miller ( a pianist from Washington, D.C.) that has been so identified with Mulligan from his first Pacific Jazz quartet recording. This abbreviated version is faster than the original sextet release. Only Mulligan and Sims are heard in solo. Bailey has a bridge to himself but the final, ensemble bridge makes use of the old circus theme, Entry Of The Gladiators.


The second Blues, is longer than the one on the first side but it has the same solo order: Mulligan (piano); Sims; Eardley; Brookmeyer; and Mulligan, again on piano.

The Gerry Mulligan sextet was a once-in-a-lifetime band: heavy-weight soloists with a very hip rhythm team, reacting and interacting within a framework that reflected Gerry's balance of discipline and ardor.


Peck Morrison sums it up when he says: "One of the greatest bands I ever recorded with because there was a lot of freedom. You worked by the changes but you could move around a little better."


It was very easy working with Gerry. I liked Jon, and Zoot and Bobby were out of sight.”


When I asked Peck if he had any particular memories, he talked about playing in Chicago, "opposite the Australian Jazz Quartet, Dave Brubeck, and Carmen McRae. She sat in with us one time. We just strolled, her and I. So many beautiful memories with that band. And Gerry, he would stand up for the cats, too. He's always been a man behind the men."
IRA GITLER - 1984




MAINSTREAM
GERRY MULLIGAN SEXTET VOLUME THREE
JAPANESE EMARCY LINER NOTES TO 195J-36


“In his long and diversified career the ever-youthful Gerry Mulligan has led bands of varying sizes but they all have exhibited those vital traits - thought and emotion which characterize Gerry's music; both his own compositions and his interpretations of others. He has fronted quartets, tentets and the thirteen piece Concert Jazz Band but many contend that the sextet in which Zoot Sims, Bob Brookmeyer, Jon Eardley and Gerry filled out the front line was the best band he's ever had. Certainly for solo power and the ability to carry improvisational counterpoint, first explored in the Mulligan quartet with two horns, it was unmatched.


Mulligan really started more as a writer than as a player in his early Philadelphia years. While he was arranging for Elliot Lawrence's WCAU radio orchestra he sometimes subbed in the sax section. On one particular occasion he played tenor with the band on a concert that featured Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In the after-the-gig jamming at a local club, Bird forced Mulligan, who was reluctant to get up on the stand with him, to play the tenor and generally encouraged him. As Gerry continued to develop as a writer with compositions and arrangements for Gene Krupa and Lawrence, he also started to advance as a baritone saxophonist.


In the Miles Davis "Birth of the Cool" band he received a chance to write and play, and from that time forward he has been happily mixing and matching his multiple talents.


The pianoless quartet of 1952 in Los Angeles, with Chet Baker, Bob Whitlock and Chico Hamilton had come about as the result of experiments in the New York area the previous year. Gale Madden, a friend of Gerry's, had played maracas in the rhythm section for his Prestige tentette recording. There was a piano on that one but on some group gigs in New Jersey and on Long Island, Madden played with just bass and drums behind Mulligan. Gerry credits her with giving him the idea to eliminate the piano.


The marvelously empathic interplay between Mulligan and Baker advanced a style and sound that almost instantaneously thrust them into the limelight. Mulligan became a personality. His golden-red hair, twinkling eyes, overall good looks, insouciant manner and singular instrument combined to create an attractive image that enhanced his popularity. With all this - and Gerry being a perceptive person has always been well aware of his image - the music came first. His confreres have echoed this. With Brookmeyer, the attitude that you could be serious about the musk and still have fun came through strongly - and certainly there was nothing lugubrious about the Mulligan-Eardley tandem.


With Zoot Sims, Gerry had something special. Many nights of jamming together at Don Jose's, a small rehearsal studio in Manhattan which was rented through the twenty-five cent piece contributions of the musicians and their listener-friends, forged a strong bond between the men. Zoot's The Red Door was named for the brightly-painted street entrance to the building where Don Jose's was located. He and Gerry recorded it together in a 1954 California concert which marked the informal beginning of the sextet. In the middle of 1955 Sims returned to New York and the group took shape. "I was out there doing nothing hardly," says Zoot. "He came out and we did that concert at the high school in San Diego. Then he went back east and he called for me."


"I think we had great arrangements," states Sims and adds, "I felt like a real professional with a group like that." Sims had first left New York for California in '54 and when gigs had grown scarce he had taken to painting houses. The hipsters in the Apple had been aghast when they heard this, upset that L.A. did not appreciate its native son enough. Zoot, a natural man if there ever was one, wasn't too unhappy about it but he had to feel good about being back in the swing with a group that he helped to make so formidable.


"One thing about Mulligan," offers Zoot, "he doesn't do anything unless it's set, rehearsed. Of course, we did a lot of things that we rehearsed that weren't rehearsed, if you know what I mean. You know, it's all that playing together. Gerry's very well organized. Always has been. All his groups are that way. He won't go on the road or in a club until it's set. That's the way I like it. If I'm going to be a sideman, I'd like to be led like that."


During the year and a half the sextet was together ft changed personnel at only two positions, trumpet and bass. Bill Crow replaced Peck Morrison in January 1956 and Don Ferrara came in for Jon Eardley on the six selections from the group's last recording on September 26,1956.


Crow, in 1977, was playing the pit band at the Uris Theater for Yul Brynner in The King and I, making occasional jazz gigs with Ruby Braff or Joe Puma, and working out with rehearsal bands like Lynn Welshman's to "keep my chops up."


He has since become an elected official of Local 802, the musician's union in New York.


In 1956, Crow came to Mulligan's sextet from two years with Marian McPartland's trio. He had arrived in New York from Seattle and eventually played with Teddy Charles and Stan Getz in 1952, Claude Thornhill in 1953 and Terry Gibbs in 1953-54.


"I knew Bobby Brookmeyer from Stan Getz's group and I knew Gerry from the park," he explains. "I was babysitting for Davey Lambert's daughter when Gerry used to rehearse in the park." (Mulligan had a short-lived, afternoon rehearsal band down by the lake in Central Park until the police set in on whistles.) That's how I got to meet Gerry, Tommy Allison and Brew Moore. It was 1950, the year I came to New York. I wasn't even a bass player then."


Crow, who had been a trombonist and then a drummer, took up the bass and began making a name for himself in New York jazz circles. "I met Bobby Brookmeyer with Med Flory and Winston Welsh, a drummer from Kansas City," Bill recalls. "I used to go to their jam sessions. Everyone was floored by what Bobby could do both as a piano player and as a trombone player. So Stan was very hot to get him, and he changed Stan's band tremendously when he came on it. Gerry grabbed him immediately 'cause he could see what kind of a head he had and they really got a wonderful thing going in terms of backgrounds for each other, and double solos and that sort of thing."


Drummer Dave Bailey, who was with the sextet from its inception and who remained with Mulligan for thirteen years in all, talks with great affection of the experience. "It was extremely musical and it was a music education for me." He told me on the phone from the offices of New York's Jazzmobile of which he is the director, "it was the first time I was exposed to music with the subtleties that Gerry required, it also helped greatly that I was able to read music because I was able to utilize it. If anything stands out, it was the impact of the sextet when the sextet was on its game. It was a dynamic band that could sound like a much larger band and do very subtle things.

“La Plus Que Lente was one of my favorites because of the kind of lyrical, and sort of rising and falling, line that Debussy wrote. La Plus Que Lente particularly sticks in my mind, aside from the rompers like Bernie's Tune and the others we used to do. The band was able to go from the subtleties of My Funny Valentine to rompers like Broadway.


"It was a very musical band and what I liked about it was that each was able to contribute because Gerry wrote skeletal parts and we sort of made up our own parts - he had veto power but it was an extremely free thing, at least for the drummer."


In 1956 the sextet traveled to Europe on the Italian liner Andrea Doha, about a year before it sank. "The thing that impressed me the most," says Bailey, "was the reception we got in Europe. We started in Naples and went up the boot, then to France, Germany, and Belgium."


Crow points out it was not all sweetness and light. "We took a bus to Paris," he describes, "and they put us on as one of the vaudeville turns at the Olympia Theater. We were just one of the many acts. I think they opened with the trained seals and the jugglers and the comics. And then we came out as the American jazz band, at next to the closing of the first half of the program. The closing was the Nicholas Brothers. And the headliner that closed the second half was Jacqueline Francois. So there were very few jazz fans in the audience and a lot of them just looked at us. It was really funny.


"But we were there for three weeks. We got a chance to really see Paris which knocked me out. And Chet Baker was over on the Left Bank somewhere, so I think we did a couple of concerts with him in Germany on the day off or something like that. We polished the sextet. It was really sounding good. Sometimes it was a quintet. Sometimes it was a sextet, depending on if everybody made it back for the show."


Sims remembers one instance when "I missed almost the whole show. And I was just walking around the theater, talking to a French friend of mine. Just ambling," says Zoot, "Had no idea."


"And then we went to Lyon," says Crow, "where they hated us. The only jazz fans there loved Sidney Bechet only, and they didn't even want Sidney to sound the way he sounded. They wanted him to sound the way he sounded on old records. They brought cowbells and actively hooted us. And we just cancelled after the first set. It was a great big ice rink or something. They had us up on the wall on a little stage."


Fortunately the Lyon experience was not the norm for the sextet. They continued to tour successfully when they returned to the U.S., too, but by December 1956 were no more. In that month Mulligan and Brookmeyer were recording a live date at George Wein's Storyville in Boston. Sims was heading toward a long-time alliance with Al Cohn and Eardley was preparing to cope with personal problems.

Jon moved to Europe in the early '60s, playing with various radio bands, first in Belgium and then in Germany. Presently, his trumpet and flugelhorn grace the WDR Radio Big Band of Cologne.


One of the rompers Dave Bailey liked was Broadway here heard in a previously unreleased version, as was the Broadway in volume 2 and all other selections in that and this set. Sims leads off the solos, followed by Eardley, Brookmeyer and
Mulligan. Zoot gets in a few more solo licks at the end of the band's riff-out.
Demanton (not named backward), Eardley's line on Sweet Georgia Brown, features solos by Mulligan and Eardley; some walking by Morrison; exchanges among Gerry, Jon and Dave Bailey, topped by some furious riffing.


Everything Happens To Me is mainly a moving ballad showcase for Mulligan with more than an able assist from Brookmeyer at the piano. Actually the band did have a regular pianist for about a month, according to Bob, when Johnny Williams filled the chair. The take of Everything that ends side A is slower in tempo than the take which opens side B. The latter is closer in time to the original issue.


A chance for the two blowing buddies, Sims and Mulligan, to work out together is The Lady Is A Tramp, and they really make her into quite a person. This was Morrison's last recording date with the group. He went on to add his spirit and know how to groups such as Johnny Smith, Randy Weston, Mal Waldron, Barry Harris and Charles McPherson, among numerous others.


Everyone is heard on Westwood Walk, a Mulligan line named for that section of Los Angeles where U.C.L.A. is located and first done by the Tentette" Gerry led on Capitol Records in January 1953. This version was released only on an Emarcy anthology entitled "Under One Roof." Eardley opens with a sprightly solo, followed by Brookmeyer, Sims and Mulligan. Bill Crow contributes some walking solo bass before the out chorus.


La Plus Que Lente, Mulligan informed me, is a Gil Evans transcription of a Debussy piece. It is as special as Dave Bailey thinks it is, with Gerry as the primary soloist.


Mulligan feels the sextet "just seemed a logical thing to do - with the four horns. We did a lot of clubs, a lot of concerts. It was a nice, hot band for playing theaters. We'd start with the four horns grouped around the mike and by the time we were into the show we'd be all the way across the stage. I'd be at one end of the stage, then Bobby and then loot, and the trumpet just spread all the way across. Really a ball," he laughs.


Did he remember any unusual things that happened to the band on the road? Gerry laughed again: "The only thing that comes to mind is one time working a place on the outskirts on Baltimore, we come driving up to the place and it says: "The Gerry Mulligan Sextet featuring Brook Meyers and Soot Sims!"


I reminded Zoot about it. 'Terrible gig, too," he said.”


IRA GITLER 1984


The following audio-only version of the Gerry Mulligan sextet performing Zoot Sims’ The Red Door is from a 1956 performance by the group at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on  April 7, 1956 and features Jon Eardley on trumpet, Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, Bill Crow on bass and Dave Bailey on drums. The editorial staff at JazzProfiles  will have more to say about this concert in a following piece. It was not included in the above compilation because the music was not release on CD until 2008.