If you only invest in one Mulligan/Baker album . . .
Paul Dana | San Francisco, CA USA | 12/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
". . . this is THE one. Frankly, it's hard to imagine a partnership of two individuals less likely to succeed: Mulligan, New York-raised, formally trained, tall, fair-haired, his theoretician's instincts already refined by years in several influential late-40s big bands and a successful collaboration with Gil Evans/Miles Davis; Baker, on the other hand, a man who would come to be termed "jazz's 'dark angel," southwest-born and bred, largely self-taught and instinctive in his approach to music, a "problem child" virtually from birth.The traits they shared were largely negative: histories of drug abuse and an inability to deal with their "inner demons," lousy tempers, and an incredible talent for fatally sabotaging their personal relationships, intellectual impatience versus an inbred inferiority complex. Even their "instrumental philosophies" were at variance; Mulligan was prone to treat his baritone sax almost as a tenor -- or even alto -- in his approach, while Chet Baker consistently seemed to eschew the arrogant brassiness of most trumpeters of his (or, for that matter, the current) era.Try to imagine these guys "hanging out" together, or -- a bold leap of imagination -- at a barbecue with their families of the moment. Never mind; it never happened.What did happen -- thankfully -- is that, for eleven months in the early '50s, playing night after night at The Haig in L.A., Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker found common cause -- a lingua franca -- in the music they made together, and in the sound they helped to develop (the so-called "West Coast" or "cool jazz" school), as here memorialized in a selection of remasterings from original Pacific Jazz 78 rpm singles.There's a very obvious dynamic presented in the selections herein: That, whatever their relationship may have otherwise been (and by all accounts it was, to say the least, rancorous), as soon as they hit the bandstand -- or the recording studio -- they gave themselves over to the music and found themselves uncannily on the same wavelength. The pull of this common wavelength, by the way, is demonstrated in this collection by the inclusion of "Festive Minor," which they performed together at an abortive 'reunion' six or so years after they had gone their separate ways; nonetheless, it shows that they were still capable of finding that common language. And celebrating together.If you're unfamiliar with the "Gerry Mulligan Quartet Featuring Chet Baker" (as they were originally billed), particularly if your interest was only recently sparked by a couple of selections from "L.A. Confidential" (both of which --"The Lady Is A Tramp" and "Makin' Whoopee" -- are featured here), this is the CD to start with. Your investment's minimal, the rewards will be great. PLUS . . . if you never go on to pick up the other two Mulligan/Baker CDs currently available (although I suspect you will), you'll still have a solid understanding of their collaboration and its contribution to jazz."
ornen | Norway | 04/29/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album, containing some of the most well-known Mulligan/Baker numbers, sure is doing good. The spontaneous music created by these two extremely gifted men is so timeless and has such a great deal of classic elegance, many people appreciate that, and there seems to be a bit of a sales boom for their music at the beginning of this new millenium. Respect is due for these two forefathers of the Cool Jazz movement, and there is nothing bad to say about this album. But if I was going to buy only one album by the Mulligan/Baker quartet, it wouldn't be this one, but the Gerry Mulligan - The Original Quartet With Chet Baker (2CD), where the music is just as fine, and there is more than twice as much of it!"
Classical recordings; essential listening for the jazz-fan
Joost Daalder | South Australia | 09/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is difficult to imagine a serious collection of jazz recordings in which this quartet is not represented. The only quarrel one might have with this CD is that it is not as complete as one would like - but it is, nonetheless, representative, and the music remains irresistibly attractive: fresh, melodious, engaging, original (not least in its orchestration). As Mulligan himself was the first to admit, the idea of a jazz band without piano was not, by itself, new. But the way THIS band was composed and worked certainly WAS new. The interplay between Mulligan and Baker was highly successful, and "made up" for what to some might seem an odd "omission" of a piano, as the baritone and trumpet were very much used as two beautifully interwoven voices. The overall effect was highly spontaneous and inspirational, though these days one would like to hear longer solos (which could not, then, be provided.) Both Mulligan and Baker played great improvised solos, even if short; Baker was probably never more appealing to listen to than in those early years, whether lyrical or crisply fiery, though he still produced good music afterwards. Mulligan changed - in particular, grew more "robust" and venturesome in later years - but did not necessarily play better than he does on these tracks. The other musicians provided excellent backing. This music will not date, even though it is clearly of its time - indeed, provided a milestone, and a sensation, when it was first released."
Best Spontaneous 2 part inventions in jazz...period
Joost Daalder | 09/10/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These 2 created more magic in their 11 months together than a boatload of others did in their lifetimes....My Old Flame took me 2 weeks to transcribe but it shows Mulligans' and Bakers' interplay was as intricate and brilliant as a Bach invention."
An essential for fans of the West Coast jazz sound!
Joost Daalder | 09/08/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the more interesting quartets: sax, trumpet, bass and drums. Tracks here are from sessions that helped form the foundation of West Coast jazz. Mulligan and Baker trade solos against a tight rhythm section. When not soloing, the pair provide melodic support for each other. "Makin' Whoopee" was on of James Goldsmith's smart picks for the soundtrack of "L.A. Confidential." If you've tired of nouveau lounge/martini music, buy this; it's the real deal."