Monday, March 24, 2008

BEN & GERRY


Hey, William do you remember the telephone conversation we had a few Thursdays ago about the Gerry Mulligan Meets ..., a series of collaborations the baritone saxophonist cut for Verve and Riverside? The series featured such stalwart swingers as Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster.

Hours before I called you, I’d listened to Mulligan Meets Monk. Before I could give you my take on it, you encouraged me to listen to Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster. You said the album was perhaps Mulligan’s finest collaboration.

This weekend, I spent some quality time with the album. The saxophonists did some wonderful individual blowing, especially on "Go Home" and "For Bessie". But the album wasn’t Mulligan’s finest collaboration by a long shot. Mulligan didn’t have the same affinity he had with Thelonious Monk and Johnny Hodges. Mulligan was more in sync with them as if he could read their thoughts. That kindred connection was missing from Mulligan’s meeting with Webster.

In the past, you've accused me of rushing to judgment. Occasionally, I’ve been guilty of that. But, I listened to this album more than the others. I even wondered why I wasn’t immediately taken by Mulligan and Webster. I have it figured out.

They seemed reluctant to challenge each other. Had they, this date would've been an all blowing session. Sadly, I wanted to shelve this album after listening to their uninspired rendition of Chelsea Bridge and Sunday. But, I stuck it out hoping they would loosen up.

On "Go Home" and "For Bessie," they jelled, but sadly they didn't sustain it. William, listening to Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster did not excite me as much as it did you.
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