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Gerry Mulligan: What Is There to Say?

Album Notes

This is part of the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces series.

WHAT IS THERE TO SAY? is undoubtedly one of the high points in Gerry Mulligan's distinguished discography. Along with Chet Baker, Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman, Mulligan was one of the first to experiment with creating space in jazz by subtracting instrumentation and chordal comping. To this end, Mulligan released a series of albums sans piano in the 1950s, of which WHAT IS THERE TO SAY? is the most fully realized. The quartet features Mulligan on baritone sax, Art Farmer on trumpet, Bill Crow on bass, and Dave Bailey on drums.

Without a piano to flesh out the midrange, the music takes on a spare, poignant chamber feel, with the bass and drums rumbling beneath Farmer and Mulligan's sinuous, interweaving lines. The set, which includes three Mulligan originals, a tune by Farmer, and a series of covers (note the delicate, moody rendition of "My Funny Valentine"), is a case study in tasteful arrangement and lyrical playing. For all of this, the album swings, and holds its own against any bop outing of the era. WHAT IS THERE TO SAY? was Mulligan's first recording as a leader for Columbia Records, and the level of skill and innovation displayed proved him a true frontrunner in the jazz big leagues.


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