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This review is from: The Best Of The Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker (Audio CD)
When I was 14, in 1960, all I knew of so-called "Modern Jazz" was an MJQ EP (No Sun in Venice) and a Dave Brubeck EP owned by my mate's uncle. At that time, my mum let me have a party. It was a tame affair. Some Chelsea blokes turned up, friends of one of the few girls I knew. They were dressed in baggy trousers with turn-ups(!), waisted tweed jackets with one vent at the back, check shirts, and roll collar tops. They had their hair sort of high, and short at the front. They looked so different, so "cool", and they acted "cool", standing in a sort tribal pose, their hands behind their backs. They were so unlike the kids I knew at the Park Walk Youth Club down the World's End. And you certainly wouldn't "mess" with them. I was impressed, very(!), and some-one whispered to me that they were "modernists". Well, whatever they were, they pre-dated the the "Mod" cult, and I wanted to be one of them.
But these blokes, they brought some strange records to the party: Thelonious Monk (what a name to conjure with!) on Riverside, and the Gerry Mulligan Quartet on the Argo label (that maroon coloured 12' LP that included Chet Baker in the band). I was hooked there and then (!!) to both Mulligan and Monk, and many others to follow, of course. But the Mulligan stuff at that party consisted of a load of beautiful gems of recordings by that Mulligan/Baker Quartet. (So too did were the recordings of the subsequent Mulligan/Brookmayer Quartet, by the way, that I saw in concert at the Royal Festival Hall a year or 2 later.)
And all these gems have remained with me like a sacred text. They ARE a sacred text! (Along with many others along the way of course.) They are exquisite pieces, and the interplay between Mulligan and Baker is "divinity" itself. (Ornette Coleman in 1959, 60, and 61, was to this kind of line-up in another direction a little later, but that's another wonderful spiritual experience!!)
One of those "modernists" I still see today; he married that girl I knew at the party. But the music was not so deeply important to him. He dropped it and moved into some other realm. (How?) But for me, this music was to shape my life and what I was to become. It is a part of me, yes. But it is not just a part of MY small existence. It's a great musical experience just to be able hear to this stuff.
I am 65 now, and I realise what a profound effect this music had upon me. And I still get the same thrill at hearing that fresh sound, that simplicity and utter coolness of these early Mulligan Quartets. Beautiful!!