Gerry Mulligan was born on April 6, 1927 in New York and was one of the most versatile of all jazz musicians. With ease, he could play many instruments, compose, and arrange for other jazz figures as well as do his own solo work! Although associated with the baritone saxophone of which he was its master, he was also a very fine pianist and recorded some excellent jazz piano music.
Mulligan was associated with such jazz greats as Gene Krupa, Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Kai Winding, Chet Baker, Stan Kenton, Dave Brubeck, Astor Piazzolla, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Farmer, Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, among many others. He was a prolific composer, and wrote such jazz standards as "Jeru." Mulligan also experimented with jazz forms and pioneered these forms with his memorable style and approaches!
Of the many jazz musicians in the news, he was among those quoted most often, and his life oftentimes made headlines in much the same manner as his friends, Miles Davis and Chet Baker. He was a musician's musician and respected talent whenever he encountered it, and encouraged numerous young and upcoming jazz musicians.
There are so many memorable recordings he made that it is hard to say which was the finest because he was always going into new territory of jazz expression to develope a motif then moving on to something equally new. Among those recordings would have to be included "Birth of the Cool" with Miles Davis, "What Is There To Say?," "Two of a Mind." He also performed and recorded with Stan Getz, Chet Baker, and Paul Desmond during his varied and successful career.
Mulligan's last three recordings before his death have remained among his most popular later releases: "Dream A Little Dream," "Paraiso," and "Dragonfly." An interesting aspect of "Paraiso" is that it features bossa nova songs written and performed by Mulligan, accompanied by the Brazilian vocalist Jane Duboc. The "Paraiso" collection includes such songs as "Paraiso," "Willow Tree," "Bordado," and "O Bom Alvinho," and reveals Mulligan in top-notch form. "Paraiso" is one of his most expressive, mellow recordings, very full of life and jazz expressions.
Gerry Mulligan died during January 1996 of complications following knee surgery. It is an enduring tribute to his career that most of his recordings are still available today, or in the process of being reissued.
For those jazz listeners wishing to discover additional performances of Gerry Mulligan, there are many recordings available. Here is a sampling:
"Triple Play" (3CD set, classic Mulligan), Telarc, 1998.
"Mullenium," Columbia, 1998.
"Sextet 1955 - 1956," Giants of Jazz, 1998.
"Greatest Hits," RCA, 1998.
"Original Quartet With Chet Baker" (2CD set), Blue Note, 1998.
"Quartets," Hindsight, 1997.
"Mulligan," Laserlight, 1996.
"Gerry Mulligan Songbook," Blue Note, 1996.
"Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond Quartet," Ultradisc, 1995.
"The Shadow of Your Smile," Moon, 1994.
"Carnegie Hall Concert," Columbia, 1987.
"Soft Lights and Sweet Music," Concord Jazz, 1987.