Richard B. Luhrs | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 01/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Composer, arranger and one of the absolute masters of the unwieldy baritone saxophone, Gerry Mulligan was already a noted figure in the world of modern jazz when he recorded this, his first session as a leader, in 1951. Coming in between Mulligan's groundbreaking work with Miles Davis' BIRTH OF THE COOL nonet and the even greater achievements he would shortly realize in his pianoless quartet with Chet Baker and Chico Hamilton, MULLIGAN PLAYS MULLIGAN catches a rising young star in full creative glory, fronting a large ensemble which more than does justice to his compositions. From the haunting intelligence of "Roundhouse" to the fiery "Mullenium," the six relatively short performances here all showcase Mulligan's gifts as both a conceptual and a performing musician, while the seventeen-minute workout "Mulligan's Too" is as impressive in its way as any of the taut, snappy three-minute masterpieces which would soon make his reputation. It's hard to imagine Gerry Mulligan having made anything less than an excellent album at this point in his career, and he didn't.
A few months after this session, Mulligan would leave New York and big bands behind to record his most important and innovative works on the west coast. MULLIGAN PLAYS MULLIGAN is an effective summation of how much he had already achieved, at the tender age of twenty-four, back home in the Big Apple."