'The geography of jazz has never made much sense'. So open the liner notes of this 'The Original Quartet with Chet Baker' lead by Gerry Mulligan. Removing the piano from the rhythm section was controversial in 1952 leaving more freedom to improvise. Mulligan from New York was joined by Oklahoma born Chet Baker and moved to the West Coast. The earliest titles here are Baker's first studio recordings and represent only the second Mulligan had recorded as leader. The recordings, although pianoless with the quartet, are produced as an ensemble. Mulligan's background as an arranger and writer allowed Baker to relax into this format. This 2CD set shows the skill of Mulligan playing perfect counterlines on baritone to whatever Chet Baker played. This is, however, not just two horns and a rhythm section. Mulligan is formidable throughout, especially on the ballads 'Lullaby Of The Leaves, 'Makin' Whoopee' and 'Soft Shoe'. Baker becomes more confident as the sessions progress and has his moments on 'Freeway', 'Carson City Stage' and 'Nights at the Turntable' where his solos are masterful. The beauty of these recordings lie in Mulligan's ability to slide into an appropriately supportive role behind Baker, allowing him his head to improvise, knowing he was ready to enter the foray when necessary, effortlessly.
A wonderful quartet with an excellent rhythm section. Fabulous.