Friday Night Jazz: Gerry Mulligan II

Paraiso_2About 10 years ago, while window shopping in Sag Harbor (the least offensive of the Hamptons), I hear this fabulous music wafting out the door of a small shop.

Turns out it was Gerry Mulligan‘s CD, Paraiso-Jazz Brazil.

It was a real eye opener: This clean, cool recording of lovely Latin melodies, overlaid with a delightfully dry, reedy saxophone that infused everything with a sophisticated  flavor. That was Gerry Mulligan’s sound.


NPR radio described Mulligan as "the most influential baritone saxophonist in jazz."

But Mulligan was more than that — he was a
commanding composer, an innovative musician, someone who pushed boundaries, yet remained accessible and enjoyable to listen to.

His history of playing with other key Jazz greats is rather astounding: He worked with Miles Davis‘ on the historic Birth of the Cool. He created a piano-less ensemble, with trumpeter Chet Baker.

Meets_monkHe cut albums with Thelonius Monk, Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Judy Hollidaythe list of sidemen goes on and on.

Mulligan’s light and airy baritone saxophone was the epitome of the the "cool" jazz sound. Yet its amazing how easily he could interact with many other musical styles: Ben Webster’s blustery tenor (the epitome of a "warm" sound); Monk’s percussive, fractured piano rhythms and dissonant tunes; the sweet, subtle tension between Mulligan and Chet Baker.

M_plays_mYou can pretty much grab any random Mulligan album (I put up a decent selection here) and not be disappointed. You will see scattered around a broad selection of different styles, eras, and musical cohorts.

Are you a Brubeck fan? Monk? Chet Baker? Webster? Desmond? Grab anything, sit back — and enjoy.


Mulligan became known for his writing and arranging skills in his teens. He wrote for Johnny Warrington’s radio band in 1944, and for Gene Krupa’s band two years later.

BerlinMulligan hit the big time when he became known for his work (writing, arranging, and soloing) on Miles Davis’ defining album, "Birth of the Cool." Gerry’s compositions for this album included "Jeru," "Godchild," and "Venus de Milo," all songs that would remain in his repertoire long after the initial success of the album had died down. (This album launched and aided several careers of important jazz figures).

Mulligan’s last record came out as one of his most beautiful. Lovely tunes, clever arrangements, and understated fabulous players mark his last recording (John Scofield and
Grover Washington, Jr. play on this).

DragonflySimply timeless music — and perfect for the holiday weekend with friends and family . . .   

Mulligan Discography (massive PDF)

NYT Mulligan Obit

Mulligan Videos after the jump



Dinah Shore Gerry Mulligan & Ben Webster Teach You Some Jazz

Line For Lyons   

Bernie’s Tune

Walking Shoes   

Moonlight In Vermont – 1959

Gerry Mulligan and Antonio Carlos Jobim

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Joshua commented on May 24

    Here’s what Cook and Morton have to say about Paraiso (1993) in the Penguin Guide To Jazz:

    “Mulligan towers head and shoulders above all the other musicians in this slightly cheesy Latin-American date. Jane Duboc’s vocals are actually rather winning and grow with familiarity, but the arrangements lack the subtlety and depth of focus for which one always looked to Mulligan in the old days.”

    However, you should go listen to some of the tracks at Amazon. I just did and have ordered a copy.

  2. Bud commented on May 24

    Press Play: This Video No Longer Available appears. Will check YT. Nice FNJ piece.


    BR: Damn, I grabbed the wrong code file.

    I’ll fix above

  3. riverrat commented on May 24

    These FNJ pieces are great.

    Consider doing one on Tina Brooks- his small but uniformly excellent catalog on Blue Note is highly under-rated, “Back To The Tracks” is probably my favorite…

  4. john stark commented on May 24

    Birth of the Cool has always left me cold–but his Ben Webster session is exquisite.

  5. Marco commented on May 24

    Gerry Mulligan is awesome…I knew there was a reason I liked you Barry ;-) His work with Stan Getz is some of my favorite.

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