Chet Baker & Gerry Mulligan: The Complete Recordings 1952-1957

Despite the Baker billing this five-CD set collects the Mulligan quartet and tentette albums from 1952-57 plus some Annie Ross with Mulligan

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This reissue includes all the Gerry Mulligan quartet and tentette albums from 1952-57 together with selections from Annie Ross Sings A Song With Mulligan. Chet Baker was an important sideman, of course, but Essential Jazz Classics has decided to give him the leading role in the billing which would probably surprise Mulligan if he were still around.

After experimenting with the pianoless concept in New York City, Mulligan relocated to Los Angeles in 1952 where he formed his first quartet. Without a chordal instrument in the rhythm section his baritone became both accompanying voice and solo vehicle, creating one of the most innovative small-group sounds of the era. He was able to find spontaneous counter lines to whatever Baker conceived, gently supporting and encouraging him with subtle comments that produced form and structure. The baritone had never been used like that before but he showed that in the right hands it was ideally suited to the role.

Chet Baker and Bob Whitlock were two newcomers who were making their first commercial recordings with the quartet. The preciously talented Baker was totally sympathetic to Mulligan’s aims. They were quite different personalities but they became one of the great partnerships in jazz and it was a great pity that their collaboration was a brief one. Whitlock was a fine bass player who was later awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study with Pierre Boulez in Paris. Chico Hamilton was already a veteran and Mulligan felt he was “the ideal drummer for the quartet”. He was one of the great brush artists and his sensitive approach became the benchmark for subsequent drummers who followed him with the group like Larry Bunker, Frank Isola and Dave Bailey.

Mulligan’s shrewd choice of titles for some of his originals helped achieve regular local radio air-time. Line For Lyons was dedicated to San Francisco disc-jockey Jimmy Lyons and Bark For Barksdale was a salute to Oakland Bay presenter Don Barksdale. Titles like Nights At The Turntable probably helped keep the quartet’s recordings on the airwaves too. (Gerry included part of Chet’s Turntable solo on his 1955 sextet arrangement which is not heard here.) Mulligan’s recording of My Funny Valentine rescued it from almost total obscurity and it went on to become closely associated with Baker over the years. Lee Konitz makes several notable guest appearances and his performances can be neatly summed up by the title of one of his features – Too Marvelous For Words. His three-minute exploration of Lover Man is another highlight. 

EJC has included the innovative titles recorded by Mulligan’s short-lived tentette. The subtle voicings together with the ensemble’s close attention to dynamics call to mind his earlier charts for the Miles Davis nonet. Mel Tormé later acknowledged the tentette’s influence on his seminal recordings with the Marty Paich dectette. The sessions with the delightful Annie Ross are another big plus. From her sensitive reading of ballads like This Is Always and My Old Flame to high-energy swingers like It Don’t Mean A Thing, where she really lets her hair down, it is clear that she thrives in the relaxed settings provided by Mulligan’s men.

This release benefits from a well-researched sleeve note by Arthur Morton but he makes the incorrect claim that Walkin’ is “almost surely a (Miles) Davis composition”. Jimmy Mundy wrote it in 1950 for a Gene Ammons date when it was originally titled Gravy. The name change occurred in 1954 when Davis recorded it as Walkin’.

Discography
CD1: (1) Dinah; She Didn’t Say Yes, She Didn’t Say No; (2) Bernie’s Tune; Lullaby Of The Leaves; Utter Chaos: Line For Lyons; Carioca; My Funny Valentine; Bark For Barksdale; Utter Chaos; Nights At The Turntable; Frenesi; Aren’t You Glad You’re You; Walkin’ Shoes; Soft Shoe; Freeway; Limelight; Utter Chaos; The Lady Is A Tramp; Turnstile; Moonlight In Vermont; Godchild; Poinciana; Aren’t You Glad You’re You; Get Happy; Cherry; Carson City Stage (78.03)
CD2: Makin’ Whoopee; Motel; My Old Flame; Love Me Or Leave Me; Love Me Or Leave Me (alt); Jeru; Swing House; Swing House (alt); Utter Chaos; I May Be Wrong: I May Be Wrong (alt); The Nearness Of You; Tea For Two; Darn That Dream; Darn Than Dream (alt); Varsity Drag; Speak Low; Half Nelson; Lady Bird; Love Me Or Leave Me; Swing House; Five Brothers; I Can’t get Started; Fun House (78.27)
CD3: My Funny Valentine; Ide’s Side; (3) Too Marvelous For Words; Lover Man; I’ll Remember April; These Foolish Things; All The Things You Are; Bernie’s Tune; Almost Like Being In Love; Sextet; Broadway; I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me; Lady Be Good; Lady Be Good (alt); (4) A Ballad; Westwood Walk; Walkin’ Shoes; Rocker; (5) Takin’ A Chance On Love; Flash; Simbah; Ontet; (6) Get Happy; ’S Wonderful (77.56)
CD4: (7) People Will Say We’re In Love; Reunion; When Your Love Has Gone; Stardust; My Heart Belongs To Daddy; Jersey Bounce; The Surrey With The Fringe On Top; Ornithology; Trav’lin’ Light; Trav’lin’ Light (alt); The Song Is You; Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You; Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You (alt); I Got Rhythm; All The Things You Are; Festive Minor; Godchild (75.22)
CD5: (8) Between The Devil And The Deep Blue See; This Time The Dream’s On Me; Let There Be Love; How About You?; I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plan; This Is Always; My Old Flame; (9) It Don’t Mean A Thing; The Lady’s In Love With You; I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face; You Turned The Tables On Me; (10) Walkin’; You Don’t Know What Love Is; (11) Five Brothers; (12) Tiny’s Blues; (13) Tea For Two (72.46)
Baker (t); Mulligan (bar, p) with:
(1) Jimmy Rowles (p); Joe Mondragon (b). Los Angeles, 9 July 1952.
(2) Collectively: Bob Whitlock, Carson Smith, Mondragon (b); Chico Hamilton, Larry Bunker (d). Los Angeles, San Francisco, 1952/53.
(3) as (2) add Lee Konitz (as). Los Angeles, January 1953.
(4) Pete Candoli (t); Bob Enevoldsen (vtb); John Graas (vtb); Ray Siegel (tu); Bud Shank (as); Don Davidson (bar); Mondragon (b); Hamilton (d). Los Angeles, 29 January 1953.
(5) as (4) Larry Bunker (d) replaces Hamilton. Los Angeles, 31 January 1953.
(6) Omit Baker; Red Mitchell (b); Hamilton (d). Los Angeles, 10 June 1952.
(7) Henry Grimes (b); Dave Bailey (d). New York, December 1957.
(8) as (7) add Annie Ross (v). New York, December 1957.
(9) as (8) omit Baker.
(10) Omit Mulligan; Russ Freeman (p); Bob Carter (b); Peter Littman (d). Newport Jazz Festival, 16 July 1955.
(11) as (10) add Mulligan (bar). 
(12) as (11) Omit Mulligan; add Bob Brookmeyer (vtb); Al Cohn (ts).
(13) as (10) add Clifford Brown (t); Paul Desmond (as); Dave Brubeck (p); Bob Bates (b); Joe Morello, Max Roach (d).
Essential Jazz Classics EJC55775