Gerry Mulligan: Writings On A Jazz Original

The former drummer with Bobby Troup, Anita O'Day and others has assembled into a book 52 articles illuminating Mulligan's work and life

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Steven Cerra studied drums with Victor Feldman and Larry Bunker before going on the road with Bobby Troup, Anita O’Day and Juliet Prowse during the 1960s. He eventually left the music scene in 1970 to pursue work in other fields. His interest in Gerry Mulligan began when he first heard the Mulligan sextet’s famous 1954 San Diego concert which featured Jon Eardley, Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Red Mitchell and Larry Bunker. That album began a life-long interest in Mulligan’s music.

This is the third book published this year devoted to one of the most innovative performers of the post-war jazz scene. The Gerry Mulligan 1950s Quartets by Alyn Shipton is a forensically detailed look at one of one of the genre’s most individual small groups. Being Gerry Mulligan: My Life In Music comes from a collection of audio tapes he left behind which have been lovingly reconstructed as an autobiography by Ken Poston.

Back in 1986 Raymond Horricks wrote a brief appreciation which he expanded in 2003 to include a discography of commercial and bootleg material (Gerry Mulligan’s Ark). Jerome Klinkowitz’s 1991 Listen: Gerry Mulligan is a useful reference but Jeru’s Journey by Sanford Josephson published in 2015 is a disappointing attempt at a biography revealing little that is new.

Just like the Miles Davis Reader (editor Frank Alkyer) and the Duke Ellington Reader (Mark Tucker), Writings On A Jazz Original offers something a little different. The 52 articles, interviews and liner notes by major jazz writers here reveal a fascinating anthology of Mulligan’s activities over the years. They include: George T. Simon (insert notes to Elliot Lawrence Plays Gerry Mulligan), Peter Welding (insert notes to Birth Of The Cool), Peter Welding (insert notes to The Complete Pacific Jazz And Capitol Recordings Of The Gerry Mulligan Quartet And Tentette With Chet Baker), Steven Cerra (Gerry Mulligan And Stan Kenton), Alun Morgan (insert notes to The Fabulous Gerry Mulligan Sextet), Nat Hentoff (Gerry Mulligan-The White Mainstreamer), Leonard Feather (Before And After), Bill Crow (From Birdland To Broadway), Bill Kirchner (booklet notes to The Complete Verve Gerry Mulligan Concert Band Sessions), Michael Cuscuna (booklet notes to The Age Of Steam), Gene Lees (Meet Me At Jim & Andy’s), Ira Gitler (Swing To Bop) and Mathew Ruddick (The Life And Times Of Chet Baker). There are three Downbeat blindfold tests that Mulligan undertook including one with Harry Carney. Cerra also includes interviews with Gerry’s two wives Arlyne Brown Mulligan and Franca Rota Mulligan.

Writings On A Jazz Original is a most welcome addition to the extensive literature already devoted to one of the giants of the music. When the definitive Gerry Mulligan biography is finally written, Steven Cerra’s book will be an essential source.


Gerry Mulligan: Writings On A Jazz Original, by Steven A Cerra. Self-published, 355 pp.