Mulligan’s Birthday

Today is the 84th anniversary of Gerry Mulligan’s birth. He died in 1996 at the age of 68. There are many contexts in which to remember Mulligan—as a precocious teenaged arranger for Tommy Tucker, Elliott Lawrence and Gene Krupa; one of the key figures in the Birth of the Cool recordings; the leader of groups from quartets to big bands; a writer who made the Stan Kenton band swing; and, of course, a splendid baritone saxophonist. Here he is in Rome in 1956 with his sextet: Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Jon Eardley, Bill Crow and Dave Bailey, playing to a backdrop of appreciative orchestra members.

If that merely whetted your appetite for Mulligan’s music, Lester Perkins of Jazz On The Tube has assembled 13 Mulligan videos. You may view them here.

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  1. Rob D says

    I like Mulligan. I have many of his recordings and you’d have to kill me (playing Celine Deion records would accomplish need for violence, folks…) to get my copy of “The Age of Steam” or “Songbook” or any of his other terrific recordings out of my possession.

    But I don’t play his stuff much. Perhaps I need to dig back in the archives and reacquaint myself with his discography.

    I confess that I always felt he was more of a technician than a “from the heart” player. Thats an opinion formed early in my dabblings in jazz (when I was 15 or so) when I preferred musicians who really seemed to sweat this music. It’s probably not fair and at 54 yrs. I should probably realize that impressions formed early aren’t necessarily valid anymore. But as with a lot of things in life, we are often slaves to initial impressions.

  2. Jeffrey Sultanof says

    I got to work with Gerry on a play-along book and CD during the summer before his death; that included producing the CD in the studio. He was opinionated and changed his mind often when we were preparing lead sheets of his music, but he was a joy to work with and I learned so much from him during that time, discussing his pieces and examining scores. I can honestly say that we became great friends, as he shared quite a bit about his music and about his life.

    The music he wrote as a young man barely out of his teens is still vibrant and timeless. His scores for Thornhill and Lawrence still exist, but except for one arrangement for Krupa, his works for that wonderful gentlemen were lost in a fire in Krupa’s home.

    Needless to say I miss him very much.

  3. Charlton Price says

    Kerry Strayer, eminent KC baritone saxperson and leader of the The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, believes he possesses every Mulligan recording commercially available, at least on CD.

    • Jeffrey Sultanof says

      Gerry inspired many a completist as an arranger and saxophonist. In the Mulligan collection, there were any number of items sent by fans. Two stick out in my mind: one fan transcribed every Mulligan/Baker recording, including existing live performances, and a European fan not only sent him a discography of every known legit and bootleg recording of Gerry’s, but actually reconstructed what he did on a daily basis from the fifties to the eighties. Gerry showed me these items and didn’t know how to react. I told him that he and his music were so important to many people that some wanted to know everything they could about him. He thought that was a little eerie, but I joked that as long as nobody was stalking him, he had nothing to worry about.