This week on 12th Street Jump, we celebrate the birthday of Gerry Mulligan with our special guest Kerry Strayer. On the funny side, Dr. Pearl checks in to give out some advice and the "Sax Therapist" helps a Boston couple get back to bliss.
If you are not a dedicated jazz aficionado, you may not have heard Gerry Mulligan's name before joining us to celebrate his birthday this week. But you have almost certainly heard a piece of music that has been touched by his influence. In his formative years, Mulligan moved with his family numerous times, perhaps giving him the adaptive instincts to lead as dynamic a career as he did. As a teenager, he began studying several instruments and organized a big band at his own high school. He also approached a local radio station in Philadelphia with his talent, and began arranging music for its house band when he was 16.
After a three month contract arranging music for Tommy Tucker, in 1946, Mulligan moved to New York City, where he lived for a time with Claude Thornhill, and became a part of the "cool" jazz movement developing there. He played baritone saxophone with the Miles Davis nonet starting in 1948, and wrote for Stan Kenton's group as well as his own tentet shortly after. When he moved to Los Angeles in 1952, he started playing with Chet Baker at an open mic night, and went on to form a novel pianoless quartet with Baker. This combo formation gave the wind players much more room within the ensemble to play off one another and improvise together.
Arranging eventually became Mulligan's forte. He freelanced for several groups as well as the many orchestras he formed himself. However, he also continued to develop as a sax player, playing on many of his records, and picking up the soprano saxophone in the 1970s. The last song on this week's playlist, "Blight of the Fumblebee," is a collaboration with Paul Desmond, with whom some say Mulligan played at his best.
Line for Lions
Blight of the Fumblebee