Chet Baker became famous as a trumpeter, not a composer. Still, when he was with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet he wrote a tune that attracts musicians more than sixty years later. “Freeway” has clever rhythmic aspects and undemanding harmonies, and in the recording Baker played like the wind. His solo was remarkable for its fleetness, compactness of expression and—even at blazing speed— his lyricism. Here’s the track from Mulligan’s first Pacific Jazz quartet album. (1952).
Sixty-two years later, bassist Peter Brendler put together a quartet for an appearance at the Cornelia Street Café in New York and chose “Freeway” as one of the pieces. Like Mulligan’s, his quartet was pianoless. Rich Perry was the tenor saxophonist, Peter Evans the trumpeter, with Brendler on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza playing drums. Compact expression is not a notable Evans characteristic, but toward the end, in his series of eight-bar exchanges with Perry, the format forces the trumpeter into unaccustomed and welcome succinctness.
Brendler, Evans, Perry and Sperrazza are also together on Brendler’s new album Message in Motion.