16. Gerry Mulligan & Paul Desmond / Quartet (1957)
The story in the notes has it that one night, Mulligan sat in with Brubeck's band and after they hit it off so well, Mulligan and Desmond decided to do a record together. The resulting collaboration is that of two intensely lyrical players. The album proceeds like a conversation in thoughtful melodic phrases, and the magic is all in the melody. We get a few contrafacts (like Desmond's "Battle Hymn of the Republican" a reworking of "Tea for Two"), some mutual favorites (like the exquisite "Body and Soul"), and a lot of improvised counterpoint between Mulligan and Desmond. It's exciting how well the pieces fit together and the tone of the baritone mixed with the alto sounds really sweet. Dave Bailey and Joe Benjamin do the rhythm, same as when Chet Baker was in Desmond's chair. If you listen to those recordings, you can hear the remarkable difference that chemistry makes. The two groups don't sound as similar as one might expect. The Mulligan-Desmond partnership produced a few "sequels" which are very good, but I think this first outing captured their intentions the best.