The most exciting news and, later, reality in the jazz world in 1960 was the formation in March of that year of The Concert Jazz Band. It seemed such a right thing for perennial poll-winner Gerry Mulligan to do. And the response from critics and audiences the world over has borne out Gerry's efforts.
In scoring the band's first album a full five stars, Down Beat reviewer Don DeMicheal noted, "It is an extension and expansion of Mulligan's concept as we've come to know it through his quartet and sextet: the combination of extremes - simplicity with complexity, cool intellectualism with hot-blooded emotion, sophistication with guts.
"Because of these many facets and of the variety of emotional experience the band offers, I feel this is the most important big band in jazz today."
In person and on records the band bore out DeMicheal's belief. The Concert Jazz Band played jazz superbly. It played arrangements by Gerry, Bob Brookmeyer, Johnny Carisi, John Mandel, Bill Holman, George Russell, and, best of all, it uncovered and encouraged new writing talents. Chief discovery was that of Gary McFarland, a talented young composer; arranger whose first big break came with two charts for the Mulligan band - Weep and Chuggin'.
The Concert Jazz Band appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival, in major jazz clubs across the country, and then made a historic world tour. The band enthralled a Newport audience during a drenching rainstorm at its concert. Videotaped by the United States Information Service for distribution overseas, its performance is still enthralling listeners the world over.
The band didn't blast or get into driving riff work among the sections. It achieved excitement through orchestral color, shading, dynamics, and through the often remarkable abilities of its chief soloists : Gerry on baritone sax, Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, Zoot Sims on tenor sax, and Gene Quill on clarinet. The sound of the band was always "down". The emphasis was on subtlety. The effect was of a controlled force just waiting to be unleashed, and the unleashing usually came in the solos.
This collection of material by The Concert Jazz Band has a decidedly Ellington-ish flavor to it. This is due, perhaps, to the wealth of soloing and the interesting colors the band creates behind the solos. Such sounds have come to be identified as Dukish, regardless of their source. The similarity ends there, however, because the band is unmistakeably Mulligan. His personality and his sound permeate the entire album.
The originals were written by Bob Brookmeyer ("Big City Blues" and "Big City Life"), Gary McFarland ("Bridgehampton Strut", "Bridgehampton South", and "Pretty Little Gypsy"), and Gerry ("Ballad"). Gerry, of course, is the baritone sax soloist, and is heard in one of his rare recorded appearances on clarinet in "Big City Blues" and "Pretty Little Gypsy". Bob Brookmeyer is heard on piano in "Big City Life" and "Big City Blues". Clark Terry's trumpet is spotted throughout the album. And another instrument debuts on this Concert Jazz Band album : the guitar of Jim Hall.
Although the selections were recorded in 1962, they were at a year-end session and certainly indicated what the sound of Gerry Mulligan '63 would be ...and is.
Dom Cerulli, from the Liner Notes
The Concert Jazz Band
1 Little Rock Getaway (Sigman, Sullivan) 3:01
2 Ballad (Mulligan) 4:11
3 Big City Life (Brookmeyer) 5:19
4 Big City Blues (Brookmeyer) 5:39
5 My Kind Of Love (Trent, Alter) 3:55
6 Pretty Little Gypsy (McFarland) 3:35
7 Bridgehampton South (McFarland) 5:09
8 Bridgehampton Strut (McFarland) 3:55
Gerry Mulligan - bs & p
Clark Terry, Nick Travis, Don Ferrara & Doc Severinsen - tp
Bob Enevoldsen, Willie Dennis & Tony Studd - tb
Gene Quill, Eddie Caine, Jim Reider & Gene Allen - s
Bob Brookmeyer - tb & p [# 3 & 4]
Jim Hall - g
Bill Crow - b
Gus Johnson - dr
Recorded in Webster Hall, New York City ; December 18, 19, 20 & 21, 1962