Gerry Mulligan and The Concert Jazz Band: Young Blood (Jazz at the Concertgebouw)

Live Mulligan

The document presented here for our consideration by the Dutch Jazz Archive is important not only as a gem for fans of Gerry Mulligan, but also for reasserting the baritone saxophonist’s first love of the large ensemble. His self-styled Concert Jazz Band was indeed a return to form. Recorded on November 5th, 1960 at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, this performance finds Mulligan commanding his instrument in such a way that only the vessel of a big band would have been large enough to contain it.

Mulligan and friends chew on a wide-ranging repertoire, but especially seem to savor the iconic Johnny Mandel, represented in three tunes from his soundtrack to the 1958 Susan Hayward vehicle I Want to Live! (the theme, “Black Nightgown” and “Barbara’s Theme”).

Alongside these cinematic turns, each a noir-ish sashay through smoke-filled rooms and even smokier intentions, we find a smattering of standards and showtunes, including the swinging Richard Rodgers- Lorenz Hart’s “You Took Advantage Of Me” (Rodgers/Hart) and slower drawl of “Come Rain Or Come Shine” (Arlen/Mercer).

Though Mulligan never treated this band as a showcase for his own writing, his are some of the highest points in the set. Of those, “Apple Core” provides a towering stage for guest soloist tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims who, despite being in less-than-stellar condition, brings a lithe kinesis to the fore. The title track is another standout swing. In the latter vein, the rhythm section of bassist Buddy Clark and drummer Mel Lewis is on point throughout, but especially in “As Catch Can,” in which they anticipate every turn of the wheel.

Fiery solos abound, including alto saxophonist Gene Quill’s in “18 Carrots For Rabbit” and trumpeter Conte Candoli’s in the title track. Mulligan himself goes for quality over quantity, adding grit wherever he treads, especially in a spotlight rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” and with that characteristic dark edge only he could hone.

(This review originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

(This review originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

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