Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gerry Mulligan & Art Farmer at Newport (1958)

I'll never forget my first encounter with Gerry Mulligan. When my friend, Ali-Reza Poodat, brought 16 year-old Ehsan a VHS tape from Europe, recorded from a German or Dutch TV channel, consists of a jazz documentary called “Jazz on a summer’s day” - a great jazz document with lots of lively cinematic innovations -- and 30 minutes of an Ella Fitzgerald concert in London with Tommy Flanagan, where she sang in all styles of music from Dixieland to classical, from bop to rock with incredible proficiency and charm.

And here they are, ready to blow in Newport for one of the most memorable jazz performances in the history of festival. Gerry Mulligan, five years after hitch-hiking to L. A. and establishing his pianoless quartet with Chet Baker; Art Farmer 2 years after dissolution of his quartet with Gigi Gryce (in N. Y. C.).

The air is filled with magic, smoke and chatter. On the stand a quartet rackets through “Catch as can”. While Art Farmer is playing, the skinny red-haired Gerry nodding his head slightly and smiles with gratification. The people who put the label "cool" on this kind of music are completely unaware of the artistic anxiety that one can hear in pieces like “catch as can”.

Gerry was playing the most exciting music I had heard till that time with an incredible attack and mesmerizing control on fast phrases. His dialogue with fellow trumpeter was like a succinct conversation between two Jean Pierre Melville protagonist; terse and moving.

As long as I remember in Bert Stern's film, camera never shows bassist Bill Crow and drum accompany of Dave Bailey, but both of them are perfect musicians for the set, and even now I think they are better match for Mulligan's pianoless quartet than his previous one with Chet.

Gerry Mulligan with Art Farmer

Along with “Take the "A" train” or Billie Holiday's interpretation of “autumn in New York”, “Catch as can” is one of my all time favorite tunes. It's a perfect vehicle for Gerry's sound, speed and his unique baritone accent on fast tempo pieces(It was after this successful round-up that for the first time they went to Columbia studios to record “What is there to say?,” one of Mulligan's best recordings of the late 1950s. most of the materials come from Newport gig).

Technically there are moments of drop-out and distortion from a non-professional live recording, but the excitement and flawlessness of performance make you to forget everything else. And if you want to hear Mulligan on keyboard, he switches to piano for "Spring Is Sprung."
--Ehsan Khoshbakht

News From Blueport
Gerry Mulligan/Art Farmer

Recorded: Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, Rhode Island, USA. July 5, 1958
Label: Jazz Hour (73577)
Musicians: Art Farmer (tp)/ Gerry Mulligan (Barsax)/ Bill Crow (b)/ Dave Bailey (d)
1. As Catch Can (Gerry Mulligan)
2. Baubles, Bangles and Beads (Forrest, Wright)
3. News from Blueport (Bill Crow)
4. Walkin' Shoes (Gerry Mulligan)
5. Just In Time (Comden, Green, Styne)
6. Moonlight in Vermont (Blackburn, Suessdorf)
7. Spring Is Sprung (Gerry Mulligan)
8. Blueport (Art Farmer)
9. Utter Chaos (Gerry Mulligan)
Totall Time: 62:49

Issues & reissues:
LP - none
CD - CBS 88605; Jazz On A Summer's Day (original soundtrack) (Snapper/Charly 191) [just one track]; Newport Jazz Festival: Mulligan in the Main, Vol. 2 (Phontastic 8814)

Session Details:
Noted by Tercinet as a broadcast, dropping "As Catch Can" and adding "Blueport,"; Astrup notes "Blueport," "Moonlight in Vermont," and repeats of "Bernie's Tune" and "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" as unissued.

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