Konitz Meets Mulligan – Pure Pleasure Records

by | Jul 21, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Konitz Meets Mulligan – Pure Pleasure Records 180 Gram Vinyl LP PPAN PJ38 ( Original Release Pacific Jazz Records 10“ LP, Lee Konitz Plays With The Gerry Mulligan Quartet 1953 ) 35:26*****

( Lee Konitz – alto; Gerry Mulligan – baritone; Chet Baker – trumpet; Larry Bunker – drums; Carson Smith – bass/ Joe Mondragon –  bass #1/5/7 Side 1)

The Gerry Mulligan Quartet with trumpeter Chet Baker, burst on the jazz scene in the fall of 1952. It was immediately embraced by the public, not only for its unusual configuration ( no piano) but for its unique sound coupled with the energy and inventiveness of its concept.

Gerry Mulligan had known alto saxophonist Lee Konitz from their time in the 1947 edition of the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, as well as performing together in the Miles Davis Nonet which recorded the classic Birth Of The Cool album. Producer Dick Bock of Pacific Jazz Records thought that bringing these innovators together for a recording session might evolve into the culmination of extemporaneous music-making.  Accordingly this album speaks for itself.

The liner notes as reproduced for this Pure Pleasure re-issue were written by Daniel Halperin. The format in which the information on the recordings was laid out, suggest that all tracks were recorded live at The Haig, a small Los Angeles jazz club. In fact, this was not the case. All of Side 2 and Bernie’s Tune from Side 1 were recorded at the club. The other tracks were  recorded either in a studio, or in the case of I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me and the two versions of Oh, Lady Be Good, were recorded at Phil Turetsky’s house in the Hollywood Hills ( any good discography covering Gerry Mulligan’s career will confirm this information).

As for the music, most of the tracks are of short duration, because the output was designed for either Extended Play 45rpm discs, or as was the norm in the early 1950s 10 “ LPs, since the 12” format was still a few years away from general usage. Even at this early stage in his career, Mulligan’s baritone playing was fully developed, throaty and extroverted. Until Baker joined Mulligan, he was mostly unknown, and played with a hesitant and pensive but mellow approach to the trumpet.

Mulligan’s charts took advantage of the structure of the group which he exploited in his linear writing though harmonization in unison and contrapuntally. Throughout these tracks, there was a high level of artistry and sustained performance. Although Mulligan and Barker were on their game and made obvious contributions to the performances, it was really Lee Konitz who led the way.

At the time these tracks were recorded, Konitz was a member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra. However the Kenton band never provided the artistic freedom that a creative alto saxophonist like Konitz needed. In this setting, Konitz thrived. His imaginative improvisations seemed without limit. Although he sparkled on almost every track, he was especially magical on “Lover Man”, “Too Marvellous For Words” and “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me”.

A word about this re-issue. The original source was a mono recording. The laid down tracks whether live or otherwise, were most probably captured using a single microphone and an Ampex ( or similar) tape recorder. No multi-track sound-board here. Pure Pleasure Records has called their remastering a High Fidelity release and that designation rightly applies. They have done a fabulous job in cleaning up the sound. The music now resonates with some noticeable depth, and they have brought Lee Konitz’s solos to an astounding clarity and freshness. In effect they have turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse.


Not long after these sessions were completed, Gerry Mulligan was picked up on narcotic charges and spent six months under incarceration. Since musicians have to eat, and while Mulligan was away, Chet Baker formed his own quartet with pianist Russ Freeman and enjoyed quick success. For all intents and purposes, this was the end of the musical association between Mulligan and Baker, save for a fruitless attempt in 1957 to rebuild this relationship with a recording entitled Reunion. This failed miserably.

Side 1: 
I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me
Almost Like Being In Love
Oh, Lady Be Good
Bernie’s Tune
Oh, Lady Be Good

Side 2:
Too Marvellous For Words
Lover Man
I’ll Remember April
These Foolish Things
All The Things You Are

—Pierre Giroux


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