August 24, 2007


Two Horns Against the World (WILL FRIEDWALD, August 24, 2007, NY Sun)

The legendary Gerry Mulligan-Chet Baker Quartet of the early 1950s wasn't just a great band; it was a great idea for a band. The idea of allowing trumpet and saxophone to improvise freely and interact without the harmonic constraints of a piano gave the foursome both a playful quality and a seriousness not found in other modern jazz combos. The absence of a dominant chordal instrument motivated the four players to work harder, to avoid the clichés and familiar patterns that were already settling into bebop. Everything that the quartet did sounded fresh and original, and it still does more than 50 years later.

Since Mulligan and Baker played together for only two years, they hardly had the chance to grow stale. Both men tried to keep the idea going with different partners and slightly different instruments — Mulligan with Bob Brookmeyer and Baker with Stan Getz — but it wasn't the same. Remarkably, no other regularly working ensemble picked up the slack, and the two-horn, two-rhythm concept had to wait until Ornette Coleman (a mere six years later) to give it new life.

For the last few years, the Brooklyn-based trumpeter John McNeil has been exploring the possibilities of Mulligan's original concept: trumpet and sax with bass and drums and no piano or guitar, playing essentially a bop-based music based on traditional chord sequences. On his most recent album, last year's "East Coast Cool" (the title of which refers to how the West Coast Cool School sound of the '50s was largely invented by New Yorkers like Mulligan and Miles Davis), Mr. McNeil worked with the baritone saxophonist Allan Chase. This week, between Tuesday and Sunday, at the Village Vanguard, the other half of the frontline is the tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry.

No Coasting—an Iron-Lipped Trumpeter Bridges East and West: John McNeil's East Coast Cool (Francis Davis, March 3rd, 2006, Village Voice)
-BIT TORRENT: Gerry Mulligan Quartet - The Best Of The Gerry Mulligan Quartet With Chet Baker (Mininova)

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 24, 2007 7:36 AM
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