Gerry Mulligan

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

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The album title gives a strong hint to the contents of this early-'60s Limelight LP by Gerry Mulligan. Many jazz musicians were frustrated with the public's focus on rock & roll and pop music in general at the time this recording was made. So Mulligan, like many other jazzmen, decided to take a few of the hits and recast them in a jazz setting. Roger Miller's "King of the Road" and "Engine, Engine No. 9" retain their country flavor due to the presence of guitarist Johnny Gray, yet both tracks work because they are strong melodies on which Mulligan builds strong improvisations. His arrangements of a trio of Beatles' hits include a boogie treatment of "Can't Buy Me Love," a bluesy, loping "A Hard Day's Night," and a downright corny "If I Fell." Less successful is a pair of pieces written for British pop singer Petula Clark, including her huge hit "Downtown" and "I Know a Place." Strangest of all is the setting of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," with a long introduction by pianist Pete Jolly in a drastically revised chart. This long unavailable LP will be of borderline interest to serious fans of Gerry Mulligan, due to the uneven material and a supporting cast that is not up to the level one expects on the baritone saxophonist's records.

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