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Gerry Mulligan/Thelonious Monk: Mulligan Meets Monk

Francis Lo Kee By
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Gerry Mulligan/Thelonious Monk: Mulligan Meets Monk Mulligan and Monk: what is their common ground? Certainly not the "Cool School West Coast pianoless groups of Mulligan and Baker. Nor do you think of the Lester Young-influenced Mulligan in the same sphere (pun intended) as some of Monk's preeminent sax players, like Johnny Griffin or John Coltrane.

Perhaps it is their mutual love for the Swing Era. Tunes on Mulligan Meets Monk like "Sweet and Lovely and Mulligan's "Decidedly (based on Charlie Shavers' "Undecided ) are where they both really hook up and yet thrive in their own unique way. For instance, pianist Monk's chordal solo on "Decidedly is as stinging and modern as any taken in his own tunes, and yet it fits perfectly with baritone saxophonist Mulligan's Lester-isms. In addition, you couldn't find a more swinging rhythm section than Wilbur Ware and Shadow Wilson, who, after all, swung the bands of Count Basie, Benny Carter. and Ella Fitzgerald. So swing is definitely the thing.

The rendition of "'Round Midnight, which opens the CD, is as beautiful as any extant. Monk delivers the melody to the famous intro while Mulligan plays a harmony line. The baritonist's statement of the main theme is simultaneously creative and direct: perfectly balanced. "Rhythm-a-ning is Monk's tune on rhythm changes, and this might be the only place where you would miss a firebrand like Griffin.

One of the things Mulligan became famous for was his 1952 pianoless quartet with Chet Baker, and the concept of counterpoint developed in that group is used to significant effect in these versions of "I Mean You, especially on the out-heads. Supposedly the producers originally thought the record should be made with a big band, and for this session Mulligan and Monk were just supposed to get together and warm up, but the quartet felt so good (and how could it not, with Ware and Wilson!) that they cancelled the big band idea. We are lucky to have this quartet recording, and yet I can't help feeling like I want more of this fascinating and totally absorbing 1957 meeting.


Track Listing: 'Round Midnight; Rhythm-A-Ning; Sweet and Lovely; Decidedly [Take 4]; Straight, No Chaser; I Mean You [Take 4]; Decidedly; Straight, No Chaser; I Mean You; I Mean You.

Personnel: Thelonious Monk: piano; Gerry Mulligan: baritone saxophone; Wilbur Ware: bass; Shadow Wilson: drums.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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