Recent listening, current

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

52. Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges (1959)

Once upon a time, Verve (and the other labels, too) did a handful of records where one player "meets" another. These albums are like fantasy baseball for jazz. Some are really good, while others start and finish without really accomplishing anything. This time it clicks. Together, Mulligan and Hodges do a smooth and balanced set comprised of six originals, three from each. On Side 1, Mulligan's "Bunny" and the self-descriptive "What's the Rush?" set the mood, before moving into the swank, bluesy territory of Hodges' "Back Beat" and "What It's All About." Claude Williamson, Buddy Clark and Mel Lewis are the rhythm section, and are good at keying in on what the leaders are doing. Sonically, the saxes are a sweet blend with Claude Williamson and the carefully considered bass lines of Buddy Clark. When Mulligan and Hodges take choruses, the one will start developing where the other left off. There's no requirement for this, it's just good artistry. So instead of going in two personal directions with the rhythm section plodding in tow, Mulligan and Hodges make the album a cohesive and jointly constructed product. No surprises musically speaking, nothing groundbreaking, no one trying to bring down the roof. But does there need to be? It's just really good jazz from five great musicians.

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