Gerry Mulligan

The Original Sextet: Complete Studio Master Takes

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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason

This two-disc, 28-track compilation gathers all of Gerry Mulligan's sides recorded with a short-lived sextet lineup in 1955 and 1956. Originally released as three LPs on the Emarcy and Mercury labels -- 1955's Presenting the Gerry Mulligan Sextet and A Profile of Gerry Mulligan and 1956's Mainstream of Jazz -- this material was recorded in New York City after Mulligan had returned to his hometown following the 1954 drug bust that ended his star-making Los Angeles group with Chet Baker. As a result, some call these sessions the first flowering of "West Coast" cool jazz on the Eastern Seaboard, but in point of fact, these tracks can be traced directly back to Mulligan's work with Miles Davis and Gil Evans on the Birth of the Cool sessions in 1949. As on those sides, Mulligan's primary musical sparring partner is a trombonist, Bob Brookmeyer, and the unusual pairing of Mulligan's baritone and Brookmeyer's trombone takes precedence over the more conventional trumpet (Jon Eardley and Don Ferrara) and tenor (Zoot Sims) parts. The primary difference here is in the rhythm section (drummer Dave Bailey and either Peck Morrison or Bill Crow on bass, with both Mulligan and Brookmeyer doubling on piano when necessary), which gooses the tempos in a way that Mulligan's more languid early groups rarely managed. Furthermore, unlike the earlier recordings, which had to be edited for 78 rpm play, this group is allowed to stretch out, leading to longer and more daring solos. The sextet never became the hot group of the moment in the way that the Mulligan and Baker lineup did, but this set beautifully showcases their gifts. As an added gift, the second disc includes eight rare and unissued alternate takes, including both sides of a 1955 single pairing greatly reduced versions of "Sweet and Lovely" and "Bernie's Tune."

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