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Gerry Mulligan: 'Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster'


MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Hi, I'm Murray Horwitz, and I can already hear you arguing that a sound like that should've been in the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library a long time ago. Well, you'll probably win that argument. It's a classic album from two giants, and it's called Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster. It's kind of a misnomer, though, because the two saxophonists had met many times before. Indeed, they used to organize informal, private jam sessions in Los Angeles. And when this album was finally recorded there, in 1959, they'd really established a terrific musical relationship.


HORWITZ: Everything about these two men is complementary — the sheer sound of Webster's tenor and Mulligan's baritone, their way with ballads, the deceptive ease of their hard swinging. You can tell they like playing together too, and with this terrific rhythm section of almost legendary players: pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and the great drummer Mel Lewis. They all get their chances to shine, and they all come through. And the stars deliver too. There's Ben Webster's melancholy, heartbreaking breathiness.


HORWITZ: And Gerry Mulligan's wistful, wake-up melodies.


HORWITZ: And, there's a punch line to this Basic Jazz Record Library entry: the CD reissue of this classic album includes five previously unissued tunes, including two Ben Webster compositions, a blues, and Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone." Thank heaven for modern technology. A new and improved 1959 recording, Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster is on the Verve label. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

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Murray Horwitz

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