The youngest of four brothers, New Yorker Gerry Mulligan spent his teenage years in many different parts of the United States. As a child growing up in Ohio, Gerry had been fascinated by trains “the sound of the locomotives made a huge impression on me”. He learned in succession to play piano, clarinet, alto, tenor and finally baritone sax. Together with Gil Evans and Miles Davis, the 20-year-old worked on the revolutionary nonet compositions for Birth of the Cool in 1948. The gangly sandy-haired musician with his big Conn baritone made his recording debut as a leader in 1951 and moved to Los Angeles as arranger for the Stan Kenton Big Band. With Chet Baker he formed a popular piano-free quartet and worked as a sideman on numerous recording sessions. He never liked the label West Coast Jazz: “My bands would have been successful anywhere.” In 1960 he put together the successful Concert Jazz Band and around 1968 began a sporadic but sustained partnership with Dave Brubeck. The 70s were a highly productive period for Mulligan. Beginning in 1970 with a big concert at the Berliner Philharmonic, where he teamed up with the Dave Brubeck Trio. After a seven year break from studio recording, in 1971 he created the orchestral album The Age of Steam for A&M. He experimented with the electronic duo if Beaver & Krause, played in Charles Mingus’ famous Town Hall Concert of 1972 and toured Japan and Europe – Italy in particular. The man who could make the tricky baritone horn sing, recorded a blues album with T-Bone Walker. In 1974 he met Astor Piazzolla which gave rise to Simmit (Tango Nuevo) and opened up completely new horizons for the tango. In Carnegie Hall the audience saluted Mulligan’s reunion with his long time friend Chet Baker. The fact that he wrote fascinating film scores and won Grammys for them in the 70s, not to mention his burgeoning interest in jazz-rock fusions, once again highlighted this extraordinary musician’s exceptional openness and creative potential.
photo: from cover 2XHDSW1118 – Stuttgart 1977
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