Gerry Mulligan - baritone sax, composer, arranger, bandleader; Bob Brookmeyer - valve trombone, arranger; Gene Quill - alto sax; Jim Reider - tenor sax; Dick Meldonian - tenor sax; Gene Allen - baritone sax; Alan Raph - bass trombone; Wayne Andre - trombone; Don Ferrara - trumpet; Conte Candoli - trumpet; Phil Sunkel - trumpet; Buddy Clark - bass; Mel Lewis - drums
A perennial figure at the Newport Jazz Festival since its inception in 1954, both as a leader and inveterate jammer in various all-star settings, baritone sax ace Gerry Mulligan brought his 13-piece Concert Jazz Band to Newport for July 1st performance at the 1960 festival. Performing before a crowd of 11,000 fans who stood patiently in the rain to dig his sounds, Mulligan delivered an exhilarating set that showcased valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, alto saxophonist Gene Quill, tenor saxophonist Jim Reider, trumpeter Don Ferrara and the bandleader himself stretching out in the context of some well crafted tunes with ornate arrangements (by Bill Holman, Johnny Mandel, Al Cohn, Brookmeyer and Mulligan).
They open their rainy Friday night set with a brief taste of the band's vaguely Monkish theme "Utter Chaos" (a jaunty Mulligan composition introduced on the 1957 Verve recording, Gerry Mulligan with the Teddy Wilson Trio). From there the ensemble heads into a swinging midtempo rendition of the 1940 Billy Byrd tune "Broadway" that features superb solos by Brookmeyer, Reider, Quill, trumpeter Phil Sunkel and Mulligan himself, who plays with unparalleled facility on the big horn. Brookmeyer's sophisticated arrangement here is imbued with lush voicings, clever reharmonizations and fugue-like punctuations from the horn section around the familiar theme. Next up is a rendition of Johnny Mandel's moody theme from the film I Want To Live, starring Susan Hayward. Essentially a blues, it allows Mulligan to take his time and stretch out with his beautiful burnished tone on the bari, coloring the piece with his soulful, deep blue expression. Brookmeyer follows with a swaggering valve trombone solo over a double timed section before the band returns to the somber minor key theme.
From there they leap into Bill Holman's intricate arrangement of "Out of This World." Mulligan again blows with gusto over the changes while the horns blend brilliantly in contrapuntal fashion on this updating of the 1944 tune written by the prolific team of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Trumpeter Don Ferrara also unleashes a couple of potent high-note choruses here to elevate the proceedings.
Django Reinhardt's gorgeous ballad "Castle of My Dream" is given a sublime treatment by arranger Brookmeyer as Mulligan floats over the velvet carpet of changes in uncommonly lyrical fashion. The bristling uptempo swinger "18 Carrots (for Rabbit)" is Mulligan's rapid-fire feature for alto saxophonist Gene Quill and is dedicated to Duke Ellington's famed alto player Johnny Hodges (nicknamed The Rabbit for his ability to scamper over the changes with such speed and agility). Mulligan had premiered the piece on a November, 1959 Verve studio date, Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges, which was released right around the time of the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival. Mulligan contributes a hard-charging bari solo on this bop-fueled cooker which builds to a frenzied crescendo of unison horns blazing at the tag.
"Walkin' Shoes," one of Mulligan's best known compositions, which he introduced on 1953's pianoless Gerry Mulligan Quartet for the Pacific Jazz label, is a relaxed midtempo swinger that reveals the influence of the Count Basie Orchestra. It's yet another showcase for the bandleader's agile, melodic touch on the unwieldy bari sax against the tune's tightly woven horn arrangements. Fats Waller's "Sweet and Slow" is an alluring slow drag number recontextualized for big band by arranger Al Cohn. Mulligan testifies through his horn with bluesy elegance on this number that dates back to 1939 and Brookmeyer adds some raucous tailgator statements on valve trombone solo to spice up the proceedings. "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" is a waltz-time swinger based on a theme from Duke Ellington's score for the motion picture Anatomy of a Murder. It features tight interaction between the saxes and the trumpets on the head. The solo order here is trumpeter Ferrara followed by Mulligan, Brookmeyer (who quotes from "Summertime" before unleashing with remarkable fluency on his valve trombone). Mulligan begins his second solo with a quote from "It Ain't Necessarily So" before he takes off on one of his patented bop-informed solos on bari sax. The exhilarating number culminates with a blast of exuberant call-and-response patterns from the trumpets and horns.
Before their finale, a rendition of Art Farmer's epic "Blueport" arranged by Al Cohn and featuring solos by Reider on tenor sax, Brookmeyer on valve trombone and Ferrara on trumpet, Mulligan surveys the Newport faithful and remarks, "It sure looks wet out there." This blues-tinged swinger features the bandleader on some of his most impressive playing of the set. He also engages Ferrara in rapid-fire exchanges near the end of this spirited set-closer. By December of 1960, Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band would document its show with a live at the Village Vanguard recording, which was released in August the following year. They toured and recorded extensively through the end of 1964, ultimately producing five albums for Verve. This Newport concert captures Mulligan's little big band at the very beginning of its run.
Born on April 6, 1927 in New York, NY, Mulligan revolutionized the awkward and unwieldy baritone saxophone with his light, airy tone combined with his uncanny speed and dexterity on the instrument. He came up writing charts for Johnny Warrington's radio band before joining Gene Krupa's Orchestra as a staff arranger in 1947 and Claude Thornhill's band in 1948. He played bari on Miles Davis' nonet recording Birth of the Cool, also contributing arrangements ("Godchild," "Darn That Dream") and three of his originals ("Jeru," "Rocker" and "Venus de Milo") to that landmark release, recorded between 1949 and 1950. In 1952, he formed his own pianoless quartet which featured trumpeter Chet Baker and helped popularize the West Cost "Cool Jazz" style. The band catapulted both Mulligan and Baker to stardom but a drug bust took the bandleader off the scene, effectively ending that quartet. When he was released from jail in 1954, Mulligan formed a new group with valve trombonist-composer-arranger Bob Brookmeyer that quickly gained the attention of critics and fans alike. From 1957 to 1960, Mulligan recorded prolifically with such jazz stars as Thelonious Monk, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, Ben Webster and Johnny Hodges. Mulligan played on the classic Sound of Jazz television special in 1958 along jazz immortals Billie Holiday and Lester Young.
From 1960 to 1964, Mulligan led his Concert Jazz Band, which at different times included Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Mel Lewis. He toured extensively with the Dave Brubeck Quartet from 1968 to 1972 and also led a mid-'70s sextet that included vibraphonist Dave Samuels. Mulligan continued to play and record through the '80s and into the '90s (including 1992's Re-Birth of the Cool) before passing away on January 20, 1996 at age 68. He was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame after 42 consecutive years (1953-1995) of winning the magazine reader's poll for outstanding baritone saxophonist. (Milkowski)