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The latest release from the excellent Swiss based “TCB” label and their “Swiss Radio Days” Series is Gerry Mulligan and the Concert Jazz Big Band – featuring Zoot Sims, recorded live in Zurich, Switzerland 1960. Aided by a surprisingly wonderful recording thanks to the then, state of the art audio equipment utilized for many of these performances, Mulligan’s – piano-less – and somewhat legendary Big Band would normally present a major challenge for an arranger. Ordinarily, the lack of a pianist in a large brass ensemble would indicate a conspicuous gap whether from a rhythmic, euphonic or perhaps from a soloist’s standpoint yet on this recording the listener might pay closer attention to the tricky implementations of chromatics, harmonies and shadings. However, the bottom line here, is that the band swings with sure-fired determination yet the jolting grooves, tricky horn charts and vivacious soloing should keep most listeners on their toes or on the edge of their seats for the duration of this historical presentation.
Zoot Sims’ mercurial yet fiery tenor sax solo on Mulligan’s “Apple Core” is simply mind-boggling while students of jazz drumming should deem this recording as required subject matter thanks to Mel Lewis’ brilliant drumming. If you want a glimpse of a master drummer, than this release should be considered mandatory. Lewis could swing with the best of them, yet knew when to soften his touch, turn up the heat and apply the appropriate dynamics without becoming obtrusive or dominant. Basically, his drumming is near flawless and executed in such a way, that you hardly notice his presence at times!
Without further ado or additional commotion, this thoroughly swinging new release is essential listening and a must for one’s jazz library. Mulligan’s “Concert Jazz Big Band” didn’t garner all of the attention they should have, but 40 years later the artist’s vision and jazz ideologies still sound remarkably fresh and moderately innovative. * * * * 1/2
1) Utter Chaos (Mulligan) 2) You Took Advantage Of Me (Rodgers/Hart) 3) Black Nightgown (Johnny Mandel) 4) Motel (Mulligan) 5) Walkin'
Gerry Mulligan; Baritone Sax: Conte Candoli; Trumpet: Nick Travis; Trumpet: Don Ferrara; Trumpet: zoot Sims; Tenor Sax: Bob Donovan; Alto Sax: Gene Quill; Clarinet & Alto Sax: Jim Reider; Tenor Sax: Gene Allan; Clarinet & Baritone Sax: Bob Brookmeyer; Valve-Trombone: Willie Dennis; Trombone: Alan Raph; Bass-Trombone: Buddy Clark; Bass: Mel Lewis; Drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.