Even though its basic ingredients are more than likely unfamiliar to most people outside of Minnesota, this Stew really is quite delicious, nearly as appetizing as the recipe from which it is taken, the groundbreaking Gerry Mulligan quartets of the '50s and '60s.
Indeed, this new version of the Mulligan ensemble even has something Gerry's groups didn'ta pianist, Tanner Taylor, who makes it a quintet. Much as I admired the classic Mulligan collaborations with Chet Baker and Bob Brookmeyer, I must be among the few who always wished he'd used a piano (Mulligan and Brookmeyer did mine the keyboard on occasion). Although recorded too prominently on this live date from the Twin Cities' Hot Summer Jazz Festival in June '04, the talented Taylor contributes a lot to the convivial session, both as soloist and accompanist.
Baritone Dave Karr and trombonist Dave Graf are splendid surrogates for Mulligan and Brookmeyer, while bassist Gordy Johnson and drummer Phil Hey do their best to uphold the standard of excellence set by such illustrious predecessors as Carson Smith, Bob Whitlock, Chico Hamilton, and Larry Bunker. Johnson is especially impressive during his several well-crafted solos. There's a lot of Mulligan in Karr's dark, agile baritone, and Graf, even though playing slide trombone instead of valve, invokes the spirit if not the style of Brookmeyer.
As for the music, one couldn't have asked for a more agreeable selection of Mulligan classics. The first five are from the "pianoless quartet era of Baker/Brookmeyer, the last three from Gerry's big-band period, his own "I Know, Don't Know How and sparkling arrangements of "You Took Advantage of Me and Django Reinhardt's "Manoir de Mes Rêves. The opener, "Bweebida Bobbida, has always been a personal favoritebut then, so have "Line for Lyons, "Bernie's Tune, "Walkin' Shoes, and "Jeru.
The concert was recorded for radio broadcast and the CD produced as a fund-raiser for the Twin Cities Jazz Society, whose web site is www.tcjs.org. Mulligan Stew is hot and savory but by no means overcooked. Would I recommend that you tuck on a bib and sample an earful or two? Be my guest.
Track Listing: Bweebida Bobbida; Line for Lyons; Bernieís Tune; Walking Shoes; Jeru; You Took Advantage of Me; I Know, Donít Know How; Manoir de Mes RÍves (63:15).
Personnel: Dave Karr, baritone sax; Dave Graf, trombone; Tanner Taylor, piano; Gordy Johnson, bass; Phil Hey, drums.