Gerry Mulligan – Episode 06

On this episode of The Chiaroscuro Podcast, we examine the work of baritone saxophonist, composer, and arranger Gerry Mulligan.

About Gerry Mulligan

Gerry Mulligan was born in Queens, New York in 1923. He developed an interest in jazz at an early age, through time he spent with his nanny, who had player-piano rolls by Fats Waller and others. By his teens, he was playing saxophone professionally with jazz bands in Philadelphia. Soon he showed his aptitude for writing arrangements. He made money selling his arrangements to various jazz and dance bands.

After living in several cities during his youth, Mulligan moved to New York City in 1946. There, he wrote arrangements for Gene Krupa and Claude Thornhill’s innovative band. He often sat in with the reed section.

In 1948 Mulligan became part of a nine-piece band fronted by Miles Davis. Davis’ recording, The Birth of the Cool, became one of the most influential jazz recordings of the period. Mulligan wrote and arranged three recordings from the album, and arranged three more.

Mulligan remained active until his passing in 1996. He recorded, performed and arranged with other influential groups. Of note were a piano-less quartet with Chet Baker and his concert jazz band in 1960, and various smaller groups as well as orchestral recordings. Gerry Mulligan recorded close to 50 albums as a leader or co-leader.

About the Music

In 1976 Mulligan recorded for Chiaroscuro with what he called his “New Sextet” in an album called Idol Gossip. The personnel included Tom Fay on piano, Dave Samuels on vibes, Mike Santiago on guitar, George Duvivier on bass, and Bobby Rosengarten on drums.

In this episode, you’ll hear two tracks from Idol Gossip. First is the original title piece, followed by Mulligan’s arrangement of the traditional song Waltzing Matilda.

Shortly after Mulligan’s passing in 1996, Chiaroscuro founder Hank O’Neal assembled a tribute album. The Gerry Mulligan Songbook included not one, but two pianos. Because Mulligan was known for his piano-less quartet, this is a very noteworthy distinction. Players on this album include pianists Bill Charlap and Ted Rosenthal, with Dean Johnson on bass and Ron Vincent on drums. All four musicians played with Mulligan at various points.

You’ll hear three selections from this quartet in this episode. The first performance is the Mulligan classic, Line for Lions. Next is a tune that Mulligan wrote for the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool Session, Rocker. Finally, another Mulligan tune that has become a standard among jazz musicians, Walkin’ Shoes.

About The Chiaroscuro Podcast

Chiaroscuro Director of Artistry & Repertoire George Graham produces and hosts The Chiaroscuro Podcast. Explore the works of Gerry Mulligan and other Chiaroscuro performers in our Artists Section. Check out other episodes of the Chiaroscuro Podcast here.