Five years ago, the jazz world lost one of its brightest stars. Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, a key player in the "cool jazz" movement of the 1950s, died at age 68 on January 20, 1996. "The Art Of Gerry Mulligan," a new CD containing the final recordings made by the influential composer, arranger, bandleader and instrumentalist.
Some say Gerry Mulligan was at the height of his career in the 1990s. His final studio sessions, between 1993 and 1995, indeed prove that he was still in top form. This recording of "Song For Strayhorn" took place in New York City in April 1994.
Gerry Mulligan was born in Queens, New York. He began composing and arranging music at age 7. At 16, he was hired as an arranger for a radio orchestra in Philadelphia. He also played sax for a band in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Returning to New York, Mulligan wrote and performed for drummer Gene Krupa, before working with a string of great be-bop players, including Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis. His collaborations with arrangers Gil Evans and John Lewis on the Miles Davis album "Birth Of The Cool" are landmark in the history of jazz.
Mulligan formed his own groups in the 1950s. His improvisations and free-form arrangements put him at the forefront of the movement known as "cool jazz," "cool school" and "progressive jazz." He first recorded "My Funny Valentine" with his so-called "pianoless" jazz quartet, featuring trumpeter Chet Baker. The version released on his 1994 album "Dream A Little Dream," is included on the new tribute album "The Art Of Gerry Mulligan." Also included is "Wave" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Whether it was a Latin riff or a straight-ahead jazz solo, there was no mistaking Gerry Mulligan.
His most prolific years were perhaps the years before his death. He wrote music for Jazz at Lincoln Center, performed at jazz festivals in New York and Chicago, and recorded three albums. Mulligan was 68 when he died of complications from knee surgery on January 20, 1996.
"The Art Of Gerry Mulligan," features selections from his final recordings including "Dream A Little Dream."