All that's jazz... and more

Maiden Voyage_edited-1On 11 March 1965 Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Stu Martin (drums) along with Herbie Hancock were at Rudy Van Gelder’s Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey with producer Alfred Lion to record the pianist’s new Blue Note album. The first song they put down was ‘Maiden Voyage, followed by ‘Little One’ and ‘Dolphin’s Dance’, but in the final analysis these tracks were rejected as unsuitable.

Six days later on 17 March Hancock was back in the same studio and this time he cut not just a defining album in his career, but a defining album for Blue Note Records and jazz. Whereas there was something missing at that first day’s recording nothing was missing, not a note, not a nuance, there was simply perfection. For their second attempt at recording Herbie’s five compositions it was Tony Williams rather than Stu Martin (Sonny Rollins’s drummer at the time) that was behind the drum kit.

Maiden Voyage is Hancock’s follow-up to Empyrean Isles, and is an album that is totally different in form and feel, aside from the obvious addition of tenor saxophonist George Coleman who, like most of the others, had been playing in Miles Davis’s band for the previous two years. Departing from the hard bop of Hancock’s 1964 album Maiden Voyage is more mellow, with gentle composition that have more of a chamber-jazz vibe – it has even has been called a sound sculpture. But do not for a minute think this makes it in any way less exciting; this is innovative musical exploration of the highest order. Hancock’s time with Miles Davis comes across in his playing, but in no way is this simply a pastiche of Miles’s music. Just listen to the closing crescendo on ‘Survival of the Fittest’: it owes more to Rachmaninoff than Miles Davis.

The album’s title track was originally titled ‘TV jingle’ until Jean Hancock, Herbie’s sister, renamed it, and it sets the tone and the theme for the album. Ironically, many years later, the track was used in a TV commercial by Fabergé sometime later. It is a composition that many artists have covered, including Dianne Reeves who recorded an interesting vocal version in 1996, and pianist Robert Gasper whose fabulous interpretation is on his 2007 Blue Note album, In My Element.

Side 2 opens with the album’s most experimental piece, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ that perfectly reflects the album’s concept – an evocation of ‘oceanic atmospheres’. ‘Dolphin Dance’ is the other genuine classic on this record, deservedly so given Hancock’s skilful writing and equally skilful playing throughout. It’s a tune that offers subtle shifts and changes in both key and the interplay between the soloists. Maiden Voyage is as perfect as an album gets.

Released on 17 May 1965 it has gone on to become one of Blue Note’s most loved releases and it is an album that no self respecting jazz collection should be without.

Listen to Maiden Voyage on Spotify and buy it from iTunes

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Pres largeBy the early 1950’s Lester Young was finding the popularisation of his style something of a double-edged sword. He was so admired that many copied his style and with all these sound-alikes, he himself was beginning to feel obsolete. The impact of the abuse he had received while serving in the U.S. army, which he described as, “a nightmare, man, one mad nightmare”, meant that his playing was becoming far more melancholic than mellow. To add further to his woes his battle with alcohol was intensifying.

He was living in New York, in a state that would nowadays be diagnosed as clinically depressed, sitting by his window in the Alvin Hotel at 52nd Street and Broadway, watching the musicians arriving at Birdland on the opposite side of the street. He spent much of his time watching Western movies, and listening to Frank Sinatra records, sat in his chair, while drinking gin.

On one occasion Gil Evans visited him, “He had a great big room at the Alvin, and when I’d go to see him, I’d find full plates of food everywhere. They’d been brought by friends, but he wouldn’t eat. He just drank … One of the reasons his drinking got so out of hand was his teeth. They were in terrible shape, and he was in constant pain.”

In 1956 the man everyone knew as Pres was named the greatest tenor saxophonist ever in a Leonard Feather poll. Many phrases that are in daily use today have been attributed to him. He was most famous for dubbing Billy Holiday “Lady Day”, and she for calling him the “President”, but it is Young that also introduced, “you dig” (you understand) and “bread” (money).

In February 1959 Young went to Paris to work and while he was there he recorded at Barclay Studios in Paris on 4 March; it came out later in the year as the appropriately entitled Lester Young In Paris. Among the tracks on Young’s last album is ‘I Can’t Get Started’, a song that he and Billie Holiday had recorded twenty-one years earlier. Lester Young in Paris is not his best playing by a long way, but it is fascinating that a man in his physical condition could even perform.

The day after returning to New York from the one-month engagement in the French capital, Young died on 15 March 1959 from a heart attack brought on by severe internal bleeding arising from cirrhosis of the liver – he had essentially drunk himself to death.

Norman Granz took out a full-page ad in Down Beat: there was a photo of Lester Young under which was the simple dedication, “We’ll all miss you, Lester”. He was posthumously elected to the Down Beat Hall of Fame in 1959.

Today, Pres’s playing is not so in vogue, his style is looked upon as old fashioned. Yet no one could swing like Pres, swing is what Lester Young is all about. He recorded an album of wonderful swing standards with Teddy Wilson in 1956 for Verve. This record is a joy and has sometimes been overlooked because it was recorded at the twilight of Young’s career; it is one of the best albums that Granz ever produced. Aside from the emotional intensity of Young’s playing, the pairing with Wilson is inspired.

pres and teddy
If you do nothing else today the listen to it on Spotify

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Bas Gunn March 16th at 6:19pm

I am 82 and a Jazz fan for years. I had almost forgotten how good Pres was. than you for reminding me


Photographer Art Kane took the most wonderful photograph in jazz history – remarkable for many reasons. In features 57 of the best jazz musicians and the image has come to be called, ‘A Great Day In Harlem’.

Kane, a freelance photographer was on assignment for Esquire magazine, and took the picture at around 10 a.m. on 12 August 1958 at 17 East 126th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenue in Harlem. Esquire published the photo in its January 1959 issue. In 1994 a TV documentary was made as to how this incredible photo came to be taken, one that Quincy Jones calls, “An astonishing photograph.”

What makes this photo so extraordinary is that it was Art Kane’s first photo shoot; he was an art director for various New York magazines. He was given the chance and it was Kane’s idea to take the photo in Harlem, a risk on many levels, not least trying to get everyone together in one place at 10 a.m. in the morning. As Kane said, he had no studio, so he had no choice. Gerry Mulligan didn’t believe anyone would show up…it was way too early.

Of the 57 musicians featured only two remain alive – Sonny Rollins and Benny Golson.
Full list of musicians in the photo

Full List of Musicians: Hilton Jefferson, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Wilbur Ware, Art Blakey, Chubby Jackson, Johnny Griffin, Dickie Wells, Buck Clayton, Taft Jordan, Zutty Singleton, Red Allen, Tyree Glenn, Miff Molo, Sonny Greer, Jay C. Higginbotham, Jimmy Jones, Charles Mingus, Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Max Kaminsky, George Wettling, Bud Freeman, Pee Wee Russell, Ernie Wilkins, Buster Bailey, Osie Johnson, Gigi Gryce, Hank Jones, Eddie Locke, Horace Silver, Luckey Roberts, Maxine Sullivan, Jimmy Rushing, Joe Thomas, Scoville Browne, Stuff Smith, Bill Crump, Coleman Hawkins, Rudy Powell, Oscar Pettiford, Sahib Shihab , Marian McPartland, Sonny Rollins, Lawrence Brown, Mary Lou Williams, Emmett Berry, Thelonious Monk, Vic Dickenson, Milt Hinton, Lester Young, Rex Stewart, J.C. Heard, Gerry Mulligan, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie

Part 1 of the documentary…it’s a must see

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ron leigh August 12th at 3:51pm

It's a fantastic photograph. I have a 24 x 36 copy framed and hanging in my rec room. Love it.

Tape boxes_edited-1

Most every fan is fascinated by the recording process – just how are great records created? How does the magic of the studio translate into a much-loved album? So often it is just the take that ends up on the record that survives a session, the rest of the unused material gets discarded. That’s what makes One Day in the Studio with Satchmo such fascinating listening; it also makes it a recording of great historical importance.

It was a session for the Verve album, Ella and Louis Again that took place fifty-seven years ago on 31 July1957 at Radio recorders in Los Angeles. It is full of moments that will make you smile, but it’s also full of the minutia of the recording process that makes this a unique moment in recording history. The session does not feature Ella Fitzgerald, but joining Louis Armstrong is the great Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, Ray Brown on bass and drummer Louie Bellson. Together they run through numbers, make little errors and talk over how to get the perfect take – while we get to eavesdrop on the whole affair. None of these songs, except ‘Indiana’, Satchmo’s warm up routine, are numbers that Armstrong performed live with his All Stars during this period. He was going into the studio ‘cold’ and practicing the numbers with OP and the other guys to get them right for recording.

Interestingly it says on the tape box 1 August, but all available research says 31 July; possibly they started in the evening and ran over to the next day, or the tape box was written up the following day. Just another of life’s little mysteries…

A Day With Satchmo includes the final master takes, along with a few takes that have appeared on limited edition box sets and rare releases, but it also features music that has never appeared anywhere before. Louis Armstrong, the man who owned one of the first domestic tape recorders in America, would be proud to be embracing the digital age with this unique download only celebration of great jazz.

It’s available on iTunes US here

Available on iTunes for the rest of the world here

Indiana (warm-up) (On Satchmo Box set, Louis Armstrong Ambassador of Jazz)
Makin’ Whoopee – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Makin’ Whoopee – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 1 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 2 – Complete Alternate Take
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 3 – False Start
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 4 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 1 – Long False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 2 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 3 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 4 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 5 – False Start
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 6 – False Start
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 7 – False Start
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 8 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 9 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 10 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 11 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 12 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 13 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 1 – False Starts (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 2 – Long False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 3 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 4 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)
Willow Weep For Me – Take 1 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Willow Weep For Me – Take 2 – Complete Alternate Take
Willow Weep For Me – Take 3 – Long False Start
Willow Weep For Me – Take 4 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Willow Weep For Me – Take 5 – False Start
Willow Weep For Me – Take 6 – False Start
Willow Weep For Me – Take 7 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)


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It was on this day in 1889 that Nick LaRocca was born in New Orleans. LaRocca became a cornet player and later led the Original Dixieland Jass Band, a band that cut the first ever jazz record, at least that is the commonly held view.

All too often, the history that is passed down through time is less than accurate. As the popular truism goes, ‘History is written by the victors’, and the history of jazz no different. Most will tell you that The ODJB was the first band to record a jazz record. This is not quite true on a number of counts.

The ODJB were white musicians who played together as Papa Jack Laine’s Reliance Brass Band in New Orleans. Laine was a drummer and his band always included black as well as white musicians. In 1916, a Chicago promoter recruited LaRocca and some of Laine’s band to go north to play at the Hotel Normandy. Later they played at the Casino Gardens where Al Jolson heard them, which secured them a gig in New York City at Reisenweber’s Cafe at Columbus Circle in January 1917.


This in turn led to the British-owned Columbia Graphophone Company recording the band but they found their playing so unappealing that they rejected the idea of issuing any records. Soon after the ODJB recorded for RCA Victor in New York City on 26 February 1917. The challenge for Victor was to make a recording through the huge pick-up horn that actually sounded like the music they heard when the band played. Their novel solution was to place the musicians at various distances from the horn, the drummer being furthest away and the pianist closest. The challenge of capturing a true representation of a jazz performer, or any other performer for that matter, continued well into the hi-fi age.


Victor released “Dixie Jass Band One Step” and “Livery Stable Blues” in May 1917, a dance number and a blues tune that to our ears may not sound like jazz as we know it. They billed the OCJB as The Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band on the record and recorded frequently during 1917 and 1918. By this time they had changed their name to The Original Dixieland Jazz Band and partly through their success and partly because they told everyone it was the true, they became accepted as the first group to ever make a jazz record.

The truth is that there are a number of other artists that could make a claim to be the first to record a jazz record. There was Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan who released “That Funny Jas Band From Dixieland” in April 1917; it’s just as jazzy as the ODJB. Borbee’s ‘Jass’ Orchestra recorded two songs nearly two weeks before the ODJB but they did not get released until July 1917. Like the ODJB, both of these artists were white.

Among the contenders for the first black musicians to make a jazz record was Charles Prince’s Band. He was a pianist who had recorded both “Memphis Blues” in 1914, and then in 1915 he became the first to record a version of W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”. In April 1917, Charles Prince’s Band recorded “Hong Kong”, a ‘Jazz One-Step’. And two months later, they put down several more jazz sides including “New Orleans Jazz”. Not to be outdone, W. C. Handy’s band were recording jazz records in September 1917. There was also Wilbur Sweatman and his Jass Band, and the Six Brown Brothers who recorded “Smiles And Chuckles – A Jazz Rag” in the summer of 1917. There is debate as to whether some of these records are jazz or ragtime.

‘Just how the Jazz Band originated and where it came from is very hard to say. It hit New York during the winter of 1916–17 and once it got on Broadway it stuck. It is there yet and none of the great “Tango Palaces” can be considered complete without it. Frisco’s Jazz Band is as “jazzy” as they come. It is the newest and smartest thing in modern music. If you have never danced to a “jazz” you have a real treat in store.’ – From the paper sleeve of The Frisco Jazz Band’s Edison recording from May 1917

The Frisco Jazz band was just one of many bands to record jazz tunes during 1917. From then on, the proliferation of jazz recordings and in particular jazz dancing spread through the United States and over to Europe. By the spring of 1918, American officers on leave in Britain from the trenches in France were showing off, as reported in the newspapers, what was called the Jazz Trot. It was, according to one Mayfair club hostess, ‘Healthy and harmless. Half the brides of Mayfair have met their men at dance teas.’ Before the year was out, it was announced in a British paper: ‘Sixty-three men of the United States Navy will present an entertainment which they officially describe as a “musical mush-up” at the Palace Theatre tomorrow night. They will have their own orchestra and jazz band.’

The arrival of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band on a liner at Liverpool on 1 April 1919 was a case of perfect timing. The fashion for jazz dancing, the band’s assertion that they were the ‘originators of jazz’, their performances at the London Hippodrome and even an audience before King George V, meant that they were guaranteed publicity. Yet again, they may not have been first. Recently an advert for Dawkin’s Famous Coloured Jazz Band appearing in Scotland in March 1919 has been found; this was a group of West Indian musician’s led by Oscar Dawkins, a drummer. Also, ‘The Jazz Seven, the sensation of London and Paris’ was playing at the Alhambra Theatre in Leith, Edinburgh’s port area in March and by late April, the American Varsity Jazz Band was also in Britain.

In general, for British audiences and many people outside of New York and Chicago, there was little understanding of where jazz came from or what it was all about. What everyone cared about most was that it was ‘the next big thing’. The sound of America spread across the Atlantic quicker than many thought it might.


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mikestoddart April 11th at 1:21pm

Indeed, it's like pinpointing the first rock'n'roll record. Maybe the ODJB made the first "jazz" record, but "hot ragtime" records were being made several years earlier by James Reese Europe's 363 Infantry Hellfighters among others. Oh, and don't forget the legend that Freddie Keppard was allegedly offered the opportunity to make what would have been the first jazz recordings in 1915, but declined for fear that his ideas would be stolen by all and sundry!

mrG April 11th at 4:08pm

Excellent scholarship here, I plan to pillage your information here in my shows, but there is one detail that you omit on the history of 'jazz', the word: H.O.Brunn's "The Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band" published around 1960 with the direct participation of Nick LaRocca, including granting Brunn access to LaRocca's collection of memoriabilia tells us several key legends, and backs them up with documents.

first, the origin of the name. no one in the music biz could say where the word came from, no one could say more than a guess what it meant, so it wasn't negro slang, or even New Orleans slang, although it was San Francisco slang in 1912, and far from obscene, it was clean enough to put into a newspaper where it was specifically defined as "pep" and "giniker" (which are Irish slang, but let's leave that alone for now ;)

second, the music comes from Chicago, the music *named* jazz. Louis Armstrong tells us that he remembers, as a boy, being blown away by a new young player, Nick LaRocca, who was playing a new kind of thing; Louis later tells us that when he arrives in Chicago to play with Joe Oliver in 1922, the music they are playing is not like it was back home, it is faster, more frantic, not laid back and southern. He tells us (cited in Master of Modernism) that he has to adapt. Flash back to 1917 or so, and a competing record company wants to cash in on this 'jazz' craze and so sends an A&R man to New Orleans; Nick produces the telegram, it says, "There is no jazz in New Orleans" and the A&R man comes back with W.C.Handy's blues band, and proceeds to make a jazz band out of them.

third is Nick's own testimony: he says he was unsatisfied with the dixieland beat, so he ramped it up, layed on the syncopation and started playing ahead of the beat, that was, he says, his sound. No improv (just breaks like everyone else) and basically the same music and tunes as everyone else, just ramped up, punked up. His bass player could barely play and he fired the clarinet player who could play and found someone who would just noodle. Then, with this new punked up sound, he gets hired for 6 weeks in Chicago, arrives in winter with no winter clothes and so the promoter finds them some second hand coats, and this is significant: the coats are too big, but they are coats, so the band wears them and in a very short span of time oversized overcoats become the fashion rage among the hipsters who are their fans -- you have to be doing something new and youth-oriented to gain a fashion following like that! Nick says, one night, a drunk in the back caught up in the frenzy of their punked up dixie, he yells out, "Jazz'er Up Boys!" and nobody knows what it means, but they like the sound of it, so they 'hire' him with free beer to come back every night and yell the same, and it catches on, they start calling themselves "the Dixieland JASS Band" and their infectious enthusiasm turns Chicago on its ear, pretty soon, long before the record, everybody wants to be a jass band, it's good marketing copy.

That's Nick's testimony, relayed through Brunn but also repeated in his later interviews. Listening to the recordings, it is clear that what he played and what Louis describes back home, Nick isn't playing what *we* call Jazz, but he is playing something ramped up from what Papa Jack played, it excited the teenaged Louis Armstrong. Given Nick's story about the craze that he ignited, it is also unsurprising that nearly 2 years later pretty much all the bands in this new genre would sound the same and be calling themselves jazz bands. So the fact of the first *recording* was just a crap shoot, it could have been anyone one of them, and if Nick's story is true, maybe he did deserve to be first, especially since he was never going to be the best ;)

And compare this to what we experience in modern times, for example, in the rise of punk rock, from Malcolm McLaren assembling an absurd mix of dock workers under Johnny Litton, to the 'cleaned up' versions we saw nearly instantly that tried to mix more musicianship and theatrics while staying true enough to the genre to attract the same youth audience. Although it's HIS story and the rest is conjecture and circumstantial, I'm inclined to believe Nick's story.

mrG April 11th at 4:10pm

for what it's worth, there's no evidence that they intended to call Freddie's record 'jazz' -- Pops Foster tells us there were three kinds of music popular at the time, blues, sweet, and ragtime. I believe Freddie was known as a blues player.

jazzlabels April 11th at 4:18pm

Fabulous piece, thanks so much. We are off in search of Brunn's book. As has been said about many things in many ways, "This is my truth, tell me yours." It all goes to prove that there is not really ever 'the truth' about anything. All we can ever hope to do is to keep adding nuggets and slithers…

zola April 11th at 4:29pm

Please don't forget to include me in the new catalogue

Sixty-five years ago in 1949, as winter was turning to Spring, the eighth national tour of Jazz At The Philharmonic began at Carnegie Hall; things were looking promising for this year’s concerts, despite the disappointments of the previous year where audience numbers were down. Concert organiser Norman Granz’s had managed to secure Ella Fitzgerald as the headliner for the spring tour; a tour on which his payroll was $9,100 per week excluding Ella – $1000 more than any previous tour.

To secure Ella’s participation, Granz had negotiated long and hard with her agent Tim Gale, and he paid her much more than anyone else on the tour, paying per appearance rather than a weekly wage like all the other musicians. Even when pianist Hank Jones went down with flu as the tour reached Chicago, Ella just went on with bass and drums. Not that everything was a positive. Down Beat in particular was critical of Ella’s ‘crummy’ selection of songs; Granz knew it to be true and it marked the start of a very long and sometimes painful process to take Ella in a completely new direction. The brilliant pianist, Bud Powell was another new addition to the shows; Powell had just began recording for Clef and his first album was the aptly named Bud Powell – Jazz Giant; an album that Verve later reissued as The Genius of Bud Powell (1956).

Besides Ella and Bud Powell the tour featured, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, drummer Shelly Manne (drums) on his first JATP, Fats Navarro, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Criss, Flip Phillips, Tommy Turk, Charlie Parker and Buddy Rich.

To coincide with the tour Granz released the 78rpm album Jazz at the Philharmonic volume 9, the previous volume had just registered sales of 100,000 copies, which was a considerable number for a jazz album.

 Check out our Jazz at the Philharmonic playlist to hear the brilliant jazz and to soak up the atmosphere of these legendary concerts.





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It was on this day in 1961 that Freddie Hubbard recorded his album Hub Cap and to celebrate we have a playlist of tunes that were all recorded in the month of April. We’ve dug into the vaults to come up with these tunes and there are undoubtedly some that you’ll know but there are a number we’ll wager that will be new to you… These are just some of the albums from which we’ve taken the tracks.



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‘At the height of his success, Gerry was the dominant baritone saxophonist in the world’

– Music critic, biographer, lyricist and journalist Gene Lees

Gerald Joseph Mulligan’s father was from a family of Irish immigrants in North Carolina, while his mother, from Philadelphia, had Irish and German ancestry. Three of their four sons arrived while they lived in Chester, Pennsylvania, before work moved the family to New York, where Mulligan was born in Queens Village, Long Island on 6 April 1927. He was less than a year old when the family moved again, this time to Marion, a prosperous town in Ohio mainly associated with the construction and mining industries.

Looking after a big house and four sons proved too much for Mulligan’s mother, so a black woman named Lily Rowan was hired to help out. She grew fond of the youngest son and felt protective towards her ‘Bonzo’. Spending an increasing amount of time at Lily’s house, he loved to ‘lean against the piano bench with my nose at keyboard height’ watching her player piano play Fats Waller rolls. While he showed interest in piano, Mulligan would eventually choose to learn the clarinet at his Catholic school, where he wrote his first arrangement for the odd mixture of instruments that made up their orchestra: ‘one clarinet, one violin, one drum, one piano player—seven or eight of us.’ The nuns at the school took exception to the tune’s title, “Lover”, and it was never performed.

Mulligan continued to arrange into his teens, also taking up various saxophones and moving to New York in 1946, where he ended up spending most of his time in Gil Evans’ flat on 55th Street, taking turns on the piano and taking part in the informal salons hosted there. This was during a fertile period of reinvention when many of the attendees were looking for new sources of inspiration, in particular the European Impressionist composers, such as Debussy, Ravel, Satie Delius and arguably England’s greatest composer, Vaughan Williams. What was appealing about their approach lay in the way that they had freed the music from the need for defining root notes, or tonics. Instead of a key being explicit, its tonality was suggested; it too was impressionistic.

Composer and bandleader George Russell had formulated this modal theory, sharing it with other members at Evans’ salon, and Evans and Miles Davis set about implementing this new music in a jazz setting, Meanwhile, to make ends meet, Mulligan worked as an arranger and alto player in the bands of Gene Krupa, and Claude Thornhill (1948), which also involved Evans, and Elliot Lawrence (1949). His growing reputation and involvement in the salon made Mulligan the perfect choice when Evans and Davis were seeking an additional arranger for their Birth Of The Cool nonet (1949–1950), although he actually ended up being one of the main contributors, charting the majority of the music and playing on every session, significant for it being the his first outing on baritone and, importantly, helping to orchestrate the horns to achieve their choral sound.

Mulligan also recommended Lee Konitz for the sessions who he had met in Thornhill’s band, proving to be a perfect choice, because that is exactly the sound for which Davis was searching. Miles loved the sound of the Thornhill Band, and if Konitz had not been recruited it is arguable that things might not have progressed.

After the nonet, Mulligan recorded his own tentet before moving to Los Angeles in 1951. He landed a gig arranging dance numbers for Stan Kenton, then Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars, before forming an unusually piano-less quartet in 1952 with Bob Whitlock, Chico Hamilton and Chet Baker whom he had met jamming at the Haig Club, and with whom he had discovered an almost telepathic rapport.

Their residency at the Haig and the recordings they made propelled them to instant stardom, which might have gone on unchecked if it were not for a six-month prison term for possession of heroin that put Mulligan behind bars. Meanwhile, Baker developed his style and solo career so that by the time Mulligan was released, the offer of reforming their band was no longer financially attractive. Instead, Mulligan began a series of new musical partnerships over the course of the next few years, with Bob Brookmeyer then Jon Eardley replacing Baker, Red Mitchell substituting for Whitlock and Frank Isola for Hamilton.

Returning from a huge success with this quartet in Paris, Mulligan formed a sextet with Zoot Sims (1955–1958), followed by a group with Art Farmer (1958). Being the best baritone saxophonist around meant constant invitations to play alongside a fantastic range of talent: Desmond, Ellington, Webster, Hodges, Holiday, Armstrong, Basie, Getz, Monk, Winding, Davis, and a soloist spot with the Dave Brubeck Trio (1968–1972).

He first recorded for Verve on their historic recordings at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1957 where he guested with Teddy Wilson’s Trio; the track listing was like a best of JATP. He was also recorded leading his own quartet featuring trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. A few weeks later he was at Capitol’s Hollywood studio recording with Harry Edison, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson on an album aptly titled The Jazz Giants of ’58. The following day, Mulligan and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond recorded some of their Blues In Time album that they finished before the end of August. Before this very productive year was out, Mulligan had recorded Getz Meets Mulligan in Hi-Fi that ranks alongside some of his best work

The following year he put his arranging skills to good use when working on an album with Gene Krupa, appropriately called Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements. When not being a guest in other peoples’ bands, the 1960s brought Mulligan a new focus for his arranging skills: big-band music for a thirteen-piece concert jazz band. His first sessions for Verve in May 1960 at Plaza Sound Studio in New York and subsequent sessions in June created Gerry Mulligan and The Concert Jazz Band. Before the year was out, he took the concept on tour, culminating in Gerry Mulligan And The Concert Jazz Band At The Village Vanguard that was recorded in New York in December.

During the 1970s and most of the 1980s, Mulligan kept just as busy, intermittently leading another big band, the Age of Steam, and forming various groups and playing festivals, including dates with Charles Mingus. In the 1990s, he embarked on a world tour with his ‘no-name’ quartet and led a ‘Rebirth of the Cool’ band that performed and recorded remakes of the Miles Davis Nonet classics. Davis had been keen to take part on the heels of his recent well-received performance of the material at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Quincy Jones, but unfortunately died shortly before they were due to enter the studio. Mulligan himself died five years later on 20 January 1996 from complications after knee surgery, although his wife reported that he also had cancer of the liver.

Mulligan became known for his sensitive arrangements and revolutionary orchestrations. His compositional and tuition skills were highly sought after; he was made the Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, and was invited to be the Glasgow International Jazz Festival’s first-ever Composer-in-Residence, for which he wrote “The Flying Scotsman”, both in 1988. He received many awards, including a Grammy in 1981, induction of the Birth Of The Cool album into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1982 and a personal induction into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1993.

Listen to our exclusive Gerry Mulligan playlist here

And these are just a few of our favourite albums From Gerry.






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The third in our series of 180 gram vinyl recording from the 100 titles that Blue Note are reissuing to celebrate the label’s 75th anniversary is Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch recorded in February 1964. It features Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Eric Dolphy (flute, alto saxophone bass clarinet), Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone), Richard Davis (bass), Anthony Williams (drums) and despite being recorded 50 years ago sounds as fresh today as when Rudy Van Gelder committed it to tape.

“I’m on my way to Europe to live for a while. Why? Because I can get more work there playing my own music and because if you try to do anything different in this country, people put you down for it.” Eric Dolphy

Recorded in February with the liner notes written sometime shortly thereafter, this album was released in the middle of August 1964. Tragically, Dolphy died in Berlin in late June 1964 from an undiagnosed diabetic condition and this recording was to be his epitaph. Few artists have had a more immediate or more fitting one. Dolphy had been true to his word, leaving the US to tour Europe with Charles Mingus and at the end of the tour, he went to join his girlfriend in Paris. It was while playing a gig in Berlin that he was taken ill.

On this, his first and only album for Blue Note as a leader, Dolphy excels; his achievements made more poignant by what might have been. The opening track ‘Hat and Beard’, a reference to Monk, gets the album off to an incredible start. The interplay between Hutcherson’s vibes and eighteen-year-old Tony Williams is fascinating, but then again that word can be applied to everything on this recording.

Dolphy wrote all the tracks – the album stands head and shoulders above his previous recordings – and it is deeply ironic that just as the thirty-six-year-old Doplphy had found where he wanted to go musically, he died. His bass clarinet on ‘Something Sweet, Something Tender’ is perhaps the album’s very highest point. Make no mistake, this is not easy listening, but once you have allowed yourself to be immersed in Dolphy’s musical imaginings then all is revealed. On Side two Dolphy plays the alto saxophone and for us, this is the place to start your initiation into his exploration of free jazz.

With it’s brilliant Reid Miles cover, featuring one of his own photographs – just imagine Miles stepping out from his office at lunchtime, a brief for the cover design and the title of the album in his head, and suddenly his eyes fall upon the perfect sign – this is now considered one of the most important free jazz albums ever recorded, and not just (as some have suggested) because Dolphy died prematurely. Avoid it at your peril.

Click here to visit the Back To Blue web site where you can order Out To Lunch.


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For our second 180 gram vinyl record in the series of 100 titles that Blue Note are reissuing to celebrate the label’s 75th anniversary we are looking at Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil. According to Blue Note President Don Was this album is particularly personal to him and one of his favourite releases from Blue Note. “It’s a little mysterious, particularly side two of the record. I bought it in the late 1960s when I was having some problems in my life and when I played Speak No Evil for the first time it made me feel like myself again, it restored balance to my life.” Such is the magic of music and especially Wayne Shorter[s fabulous album.

“I was thinking of misty landscapes with wild flowers and strange dimly lit shapes – the kind of places where folklore and legends are born. And then I was thinking of witch burnings too.” – Wayne Shorter, elaborating on his compositions for Speak No Evil, 1965

Shorter began recording this album in early November 1964 at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio but the three tracks the band cut were all rejected for various reasons, and when he got back into the studio on Christmas Eve, Elvin Jones had taken over on drums from Billy Higgins. Jones had played on a handful of Blue Note sessions in the 1950s but during 1964 he was playing more regularly; the sense of swing he brought with him from Coltrane’s group is essential for this record.

‘Witch Hunt’ opens with a flurry of a fanfare from trumpeter, Freddie Hubbard and Shorter, then quickly settles into the theme of the piece. The empathy between the old Messengers is clear and the feel of the track is brighter than much of what follows. ‘Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum’ is darker in tone and conjures up the shadowy, mythicalworld that inspired Shorter to write this, and all the other compositions on the album.

The album’s title track is pure hard bop and is driven along with intensity by Shorter before Hubbard solos; all the while Herbie Hancock’s piano teeters on the edge of the avant-garde. It’s a heady mix that works superbly well and helps to justify the huge reputation that this album has built up over time. Despite its originality, the album attracted little attention on its release: Shorter was not as well regarded in 1965 when it was released as he was to become.

Perfectly juxtaposed with the title track, ‘Infant Eyes’ was written for the saxophonist’s baby daughter; her mother, Shorter’s wife, is the woman who appears on the front cover of the record (both photographed and designed by Reid Miles). This beautiful, tender ballad is followed by the gorgeous ‘Wild Flower’, which brings the record to a slow but intense close. The album appears to be precisely structured, with clearly defined sections, and Shorter clearly had the whole thing worked out. Perhaps this explains the reason for ditching earlier session; it simply failed to come up to the standards that Shorter demanded of himself and his band.

Click here to visit the Back To Blue web site where you can order Speak No Evil


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