JAM, IV: Gerry Mulligan on "Sunday" + Charlie Rouse/Paul Quinichette on "The Tender Trap"

Every weekday this month I'll be posting new content in observance of Jazz Appreciation Month (J.A.M.), so-designated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History beginning in 2001. International Jazz Day, so-designated by UNESCO in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is on the last day of April, the 30th; it was first celebrated in 2012. Debating the relative merits of designating specific days or months for celebrating heritages, traditions, and the like aside, Jazz Appreciation Month is at the very least an excuse to dig into some material that I've been interested in for a while on the blog.

Friday's installment featured an early solo by Scott LaFaro on "Crazeology" and a transcribed interview with Bill Evans on LaFaro. Tomorrow's will feature Freddie Hubbard playing Wynton off the stage at the Blue Note.

†If you enjoy the content on this blog, please consider supporting my band's homegrown effort to get our record through the final stages of mastering and production. It's all recorded—you can listen to it now!—but we just need a bit more help to get to the finish line. We appreciate it. </self-promotion over>

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As far as jazz birthdays go, April 6 is exceptional:
Of these great figures, I've mentioned Notes & Tones a few times on this blog ("Max Is Making Wax" & "Concerts or Clubs?"), which is essential reading as is Tapscott's autobiography, Songsof the Unsung: The Musical and Social Journey of Horace Tapscott, which presents a case study in musical community organization—in this case, Tapscott's dedication to local Los Angeles communities (specifically in Watts).

Gerry Mulligan in the Netherlands, 5 November 1960
Mulligan at the piano ca. 1960
(Wikimedia Commons)
I'd consider both Mulligan and Rouse, born three years apart (Mulligan in '27 and Rouse in '24), to be perennially underrated saxophonists. Mulligan tends more to get his due, I think, because of his compositional reputation and associations with Chet Baker, Paul Desmond, et al., which I suspect casts an unfortunate shadow on the large body of work that came after this relatively early work.

I've checked out very few baritone players, but hearing Cecil Payne blowing perfect phrases on a recently acquired Dizzy Gillespie Big Band record reminded me of a peculiar natural adaptation of less agile, lower-pitched horns: the need to develop economy of language, meaning more efficient phrasing and less skating. I've always felt this way listening to, say, J.J. Johnson, who has immaculate technique on the instrument but rarely overplays.

Mulligan is on a bunch of "Meets" records around late turn of the '50s: Mulligan Meets Monk ('57), Getz Meets Mulligan in Hi-Fi (same year), Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster ('59), and Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges ('61). As I remember it, the Mulligan/Getz record is a relatively unexceptional blowing session aside from fascinating set of tracks where the two trade horns. Mulligan gets a brighter, more forceful sound out of Getz's tenor set-up, which also highlights his more rhythmically textured approach compared to Getz's flatter lines, while Getz seems to relish the opportunity to honk on the big horn, similarly encouraged by the novelty to play more aggressively.

Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster is basically the same situation, although generally more relaxed. The rhythm section is top-shelf West Coast: Jimmy Rowles on piano, Leroy "The Walker" Vinnegar on bass, and Mel Lewis on drums. I'm not too all familiar with the tune "Sunday"—written in 1926 when Jule Styne still went by "Jules Stein," 17 years old at the time—but it's a catchy, simple one. I know Lester Young did a few versions of this, although the version I know best is the Getz version from Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio ('57). Webster also does this on a date with Peterson (Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson, also from '59 like the Mulligan date), so it was clearly in the cats' ears at the time. Mulligan takes a clean three-chorus solo:

Gerry Mulligan Solo Transcription "Sunday" - 1

Gerry Mulligan Solo Transcription "Sunday" - 2

Gerry Mulligan Solo Transcription "Sunday" - 3


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Speaking of underrated saxophonists, Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette (a.k.a. "Vice Prez") did a record together in '57 with Wynton Kelly (Hank Jones and Freddie Green replace Kelly on two tracks), Wendell Marshall on bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums, for Bethlehem. I've got a '78 reissue with charmingly unhappening cover art (the original is way better, although note the suspicious curvature around the back of Quinichette's head on original):

Leonard Feather writes some characteristically ?-inducing notes to the record. I'll start from the last sentence:
The Chase Is On typifies the brand of music that always emerges when two major league players, using the same instrument, are brought together in a summit meeting.
...okay. And right before:
As was the case with most of the truly effective tenor saxophone exchanges at that time, there is no real sense of rivalry here, but rather a suggestion of intelligent, challenging, interchange of ideas. Rouse is a fluent and imaginative soloist, long associated with the hard bop school, whereas Quinichette, obviously, was identified with the laid back, cool approach of Lester Young; yet on this occasion, the resemblances and the empathy seem more significant than the differences and contrasts.
Enough with the Feather-bashing. He does reveal an interesting factoid about Quinichette that I'd never known:
Paul Quinichette has always been something of a maverick. First there's his name, which is obviously of French origin and should be announced to rhyme with cigarette; however, he prefers o rhyme it with Bechet.
"Quini-shay" does have a nice sound to it. Here's Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette's arrangement of "Tender Trap" from the record, featuring simple arranging devices delivered in tasteful, clever ways:

"Tender Trap" Lead Sheet - Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette - 1

"Tender Trap" Lead Sheet - Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette - 2


  1. Your list of "Mulligan Meets" albums doesn't include "Two Of a Mind", Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond. To my ears it lives up to its name.

    1. Good point, the subtitle could be "Mulligan Meets Desmond." A classic.


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