The Gerry Mulligan Quartet was not only a groundbreaking pianoless group, featuring baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and trumpeter Chet Baker with a bassist and drummer, but the band also helped to launch Dick Bock's Pacific Jazz label. The 19 tracks on this reissue collect the first five studio sessions of the group for the label plus four live tracks recorded at the Haig, a tiny West Coast nightclub where they catapulted to fame. Their unique approach to music came to be labeled as "cool" or West Coast jazz, relying on intricate improvisations, with Mulligan's inventive, lyrical baritone being well complemented by Baker, an unschooled player who possessed a gift for playing by ear. Bassists Bobby Whitlock and Carson Smith, along with drummers Chico Hamilton or Larry Bunker, round out the group. There are numerous highlights within this volume, though Mulligan's loping "Walking Shoes" (which he returned to throughout the remaining four-plus decades of his career), along with the group's peppy rendition of "Bernie's Tune," are particularly noteworthy. Like earlier editions of these sessions, this 2002 CD reissue did not remain in print very long and has already turned into a high-priced collectible. No matter which edition of this music is sought, it is well worth acquiring.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden