Jazz author Sanford Josephson “stopped by” the editorial offices of JazzProfiles recently and left off four reviews of his recent book Jeru’s Journey: The Life and Music of Gerry Mulligan. It’s a recent volume in the Hal Leonard Jazz Biography Series and you can locate more about the series and order information about the book by visiting the publisher’s website.
“Sandy” Josephson serves on the Board of the New jersey Jazz Society, is a contributing editor to Jersey Jazz Magazine, and serves as a curator of Jazz concerts and as a producer of Jazz festivals. Currently residing in West Orange, New Jersey, Sandy is also the author of Jazz Notes: Interviews Across Generations.
We thought it might be fun to represent these different points of view as part of one feature offering four appreciation of Sandy’s effort on behalf of one of the giants of Jazz in the second half of the 20th century - Gerry Mulligan.
Jersey Jazz Magazine, January 2016
JERU’S JOURNEY: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan
By Sanford Josephson
Hal Leonard Books, Milwaukee
214 Pages, 2015, $19.99
By Joe Lang
When thinking about the true geniuses who have graced the jazz scene, Gerry Mulligan is certainly among them. In Jeru’s Journey: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan, Sanford Josephson has produced a biography that gives a comprehensive picture of the unique person who was Gerry Mulligan, and does so in an interesting and highly readable way.
Josephson has made extensive use of quotations from the many interviews that he conducted with people who knew and/or were influenced by Mulligan; from Jeru: In the Words of Gerry Mulligan, an oral autobiography compiled with the assistance of Ken Poston, the Director of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute; from Jerome Klinkowitz’s Listen: Gerry Mulligan – An Aural Narrative in Jazz; and from a variety of other cited sources. He has provided a nicely flowing connective narrative that places these quotations in their proper chronological order and context.
Mulligan was a multi-faceted talent. He is regarded as one of the finest and most creative baritone saxophone players in jazz history. His prowess as an arranger for big bands was evidenced in his contributions of the books for such leaders as Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill, Elliott Lawrence and Stan Kenton, and most memorably for his own Concert Jazz Band. Going hand in glove with his arranging was his marvelous composing facility, creating some of the most admired and played jazz standards. He also was an outstanding leader of both small groups and big bands.
Perhaps Mulligan’s most outstanding trait was his role as an innovator.
* His big band writing was truly original, as he was in the forefront of the transition from the swing tradition to incorporating the emerging sounds of newly developing jazz forms into a big band setting.
* His significant contributions to the legendary Birth of the Cool, sessions recorded under the ostensible leadership of Miles Davis, were a strong element in the emergence of what was dubbed the cool school of jazz.
* His decision to form his first pianoless quartet was not planned, but was the result of being booked into a Los Angeles jazz club, the Haig, where there was no piano. Once he chose to proceed, he quickly embraced the possibilities afforded by the combination of two horns playing contrapuntally, bass and drums. When he formed his Concert Jazz Band, he again went the pianoless route, and the larger ensemble incorporated much of the feeling of his quartet.
* His Age of Steam album was perhaps the most successful incorporating of an electronic keyboard and Fender bass into an essentially mainstream jazz context.
Josephson addresses all facets of the professional and personal sides of Mulligan. He deals frankly with Mulligan’s problems with drug abuse at one stage of his career. Mulligan’s difficult relationship with Chet Baker is fully explored. He discusses Mulligan’s romantic involvement with the actress Judy Holliday, and how that relationship led to Mulligan’s appearances in a few films where he showed a natural flair for acting. During the years that he spent as a member of Dave Brubeck’s group in the late 1960s he was exposed to playing with a symphony orchestra, and that sparked a continuing interest in developing material that he could employ in such a setting.
The quotations chosen by Josephson, especially those from Mulligan’s recorded autobiography, provide interesting perspectives on all facets of Gerry Mulligan, both personally and professionally. One fact that emerges consistently is the keen intelligence that he possessed. He was able to, at every stage of his career, understand what musical paths to follow in order to advance his artistry while doing so in a manner that was accessible to his listeners. This career lasted from his teenage years in the early 1940s when he wrote his first arrangements for a local big band in Philadelphia until November 1995 when he performed on a jazz cruise just months before his death from cancer on January 20, 1996, a period of over fifty years of musical excellence.
Josephson brings all of this together in an appropriate manner, with the last few chapters of the book summarizing his career and influence. He includes extensive quotes from Mulligan’s peers about his artistry and commitment to the music that was at the center of his life.
With Jeru’s Journey, Josephson has presented a well-rounded depiction of a true jazz giant, one that is hard to put down once your reading commences.
ARSC Journal (Association for Recorded Sound Collections)
Jeru’s Journey: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan. By Sanford Josephson. Milwaukee,
WI: Hal Leonard Books, 2015. 214pp. (softcover). Sources, Discography, Index.
Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996) is a towering figure in the history of jazz. In a career lasting
six decades, he has left his mark as an influential baritone saxophonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. His relevance and importance in jazz history is cemented by his
work with Miles Davis and the Birth of the Cool, his piano-less quartet with trumpeter
Chet Baker, and his Concert Jazz Band, all within the realm of Cool Jazz during the
1950s. However, Mulligan would go on to live until 1996, developing as an arranger and
composer, maintaining a high profile as an active performer, and leaving behind a large
body of excellent work that is obscure and more often ignored. Sanford Josephson’s new
book, Jeru’s Journey, fills in the empty gaps of Mulligan’s career and does an excellent
job at presenting a complete picture of Mulligan’s life and career without emphasizing
any particular period.
Josephson is a journalist who has written extensively about jazz musicians in publications
ranging from the New York Daily News to American Way. In his 2009 book, Jazz
Notes: Interviews Across the Generations, he collects interviews he conducted with a number of leading jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, George Shearing, Dave Brubeck, and Gerry Mulligan. He rounds off this material by speaking with contemporary musicians with connections to these legends. This is the formula followed in Jeru’s Journey (Jeru is Mulligan’s nickname), as Josephson bases his book on material from Mulligan’s recorded autobiography Jeru: In the Words of Gerry Mulligan by Mulligan and Ken Poston, and quotes from Jerome Klinkowitz’s Listen: Gerry Mulligan. Josephson then complements these with more than forty interviews with those who knew Mulligan, who played with him, and who are influenced by him. Finally, he also used material from articles, reviews, and excerpts from different publications, from doctoral dissertations to magazine articles to books. Josephson’s research methods are thorough and this book is essentially a compilation of quotes from and about Mulligan and his work.
Every part of Mulligan’s career is outlined, from his formative years moving around
from town to town to his last years in Darien, Connecticut. He began his career as an arranger and sometimes baritone saxophonist for bands as obscure as Tommy Tucker and
Elliot Lawrence and as legendary as Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill, and Stan Kenton.
He met fellow arranger Gil Evans through his work with Thornhill which led to his involvement with the Birth of the Cool sessions. Josephson points out that Mulligan’s role in the famous nonet is often played down in favor of the presence and contribution of Gil Evans and Miles Davis, despite having arranged half of the material and being the only participant to continue working with the nonet’s music, either recording the material or through the arrangements of in his own Tentette from the early 1950s. Josephson makes a compelling argument for Mulligan’s achievements with numerous quotes of other musicians and critics who think the same.
Mulligan’s work in the 1950s is well documented: the formation of his piano-less
quartet with Chet Baker (later replaced by Bob Brookmeyer then Art Farmer) made
Mulligan a star and his name in the jazz world solidified. In the late 1950s, Mulligan
formed his Concert Jazz Band (which was also piano-less) as “part of a general
movement to do more obvious things with counterpoint.” With arrangements by Bob
Brookmeyer, Al Cohn, Johnny Carisi, and Bill Holman, the band recorded five albums
for Verve and disbanded by 1964. Although it was a short-lived band, its influence and
legacy are still felt, as it set the stage for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band.
The rise of rock in the 1960s limited work and exposure for jazz musicians and so
Mulligan stopped recording regularly in 1965. His material afterwards is not as famous
and is often obscured in summaries of Gerry Mulligan. He began a brief association
with Dave Brubeck that gave Mulligan a break from leading a band and resulted in one
studio recording and two live recordings. 1971’s The Age of Steam is a radical departure
from Mulligan’s earlier works and a personal turning point. This record features a fifteen-
piece band including electric bass and electric piano and includes Roger Kellaway,
Harry “Sweets” Edison, Chuck Domanico, Bud Shank, and a young Tom Scott. 1980’s
Walk on the Water won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance and features
a rejuvenated Concert Jazz Band with Tom Harrell and Harold Danko among others.
Of particular interest amongst Mulligan’s lesser-known works are his classical compositions and performances with symphony orchestras that constituted a major part of his work in the last twenty years of his life. He was enticed by the idea of combining jazz and classical music through his time with Brubeck. Highlights of this period include a 1977 performance by the CBS Symphony Orchestra with Mulligan as guest soloist on Celebration, a symphonic work by Candian composer Harry Freedman and commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Company in honor of Mulligan’s fiftieth birthday. Later, after a chance meeting with famed conductor Zubin Mehta, Mulligan was invited to perform Ravel’s Bolero with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in May 1982. Afterwards Mulligan began work on an extended symphonic piece, Entente for Saxophone and Orchestra, completed in 1984 with performances in Italy, England, and the US.
In addition to his quartet work, Mulligan would continue to make appearances with
several other classical orchestras including the Stockholm Philharmonic, the Philadelphia
Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Mulligan’s stature as a great jazz composer
who successfully crossed over into classical is well documented here and begs for this music to be heard and performed again. In 1999, three years after Muligan’s death, the Library of Congress opened an exhibition entitled “The Gerry Mulligan Collection,” featuring photographs, manuscripts, scores, and Mulligan’s gold-plated saxophone.
In addition to discussing Mulligan’s life and career, there are also a few chapters
featuring quotes from Mulligan’s sidemen that offer a different perspective of Gerry Mulligan as well as one on Mulligan’s legacy on the baritone saxophone. There is some discussion on Mulligan’s personal relationships, especially with Judy Holliday and Franca Rota, but the focus of the book is on Mulligan’s music.
Jeru’s Journey is an important addition to the history of jazz and especially towards
the scholarship of Gerry Mulligan. The book is a fairly easy read with twenty-one chapters (none longer than fourteen pages), and sixteen pages of pictures that highlight his entire life, including scans of programs featuring his compositions from his late career. While the format does get predictable, many of the interviews give a well-rounded view of Mulligan’s work. It would have been nice to directly read Josephson’s opinion on certain matters, however his reverence and respect for Mulligan’s music comes through clearly. What Josephson has done has been essentially to compile a complete picture of Mulligan’s life and career, and this is what makes Jeru’s Journey an important addition towards representing Mulligan in a broader light. Hopefully other scholars will take notice and acknowledge his other, equally important accomplishments.
Reviewed by Fumi Tomita
New Saxophone Publications
Sanford Josephson. Jeru’s Journey: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan (Hal
Leonard Jazz Biography Series, $19.99) Recommended for: All musicians
interested in this American musical giant, both for his playing and for his
composing and arranging.
In the pantheon of jazz, Gerry Mulligan represents not one, but two major
voices. He is not only one of the inarguably historic voices on the baritone
saxophone, but he is also a major arranger who wrote for some of the major big
bands and his own recordings, not to mention the game-changing 1949 Birth of
the Cool recording which is often credited only to Gil Evans but also featured
Mulligan’s arranging voice.
Author, producer and interviewer Sanford Josephson is also the writer of
the book Jazz Notes: Interviews Across the Generations, focusing on words from
some of the senior mentors and voices of jazz. In that way, Josephson’s adept
interview style is perfect for the format of this book, which relies heavily on
interview contributions from dozens of the great musicians who knew, worked
and collaborated with Mulligan, as well as extensive secondary quotes from
Mulligan himself. Each of the chapter titles are actually a quote from Mulligan –
evidence of the interview-based motifs.
This book is laid out in classic chronological style, but the extensive
contributions from other musicians, and Josephson’s gift for weaving them in and
out of his own elegant narrative sets this book apart. Mulligan’s many
contributions not only to jazz but to the broader scope of American music are
chronicled, along with his personal life story. A positive element in this area is
Josephson’s discussions of Mulligan’s battles with addiction – stating the facts
plainly, but without any overplaying of these literary scenes. When a biographer
puts music ahead of melodrama, concentrating on their subject’s art instead of
making a sensationalist play for extra book sales, it’s a sign of that writer’s
dedication and integrity.
Some of the highlights of the book include “Out of the Basement and…Into
a Rehearsal Hall,” the account of the aforementioned Birth of the Cool scenario
and recording sessions, conceived by a collective in Gil Evans’ West 55th St.
Manhattan apartment that included Mulligan, Evans, Miles Davis, John Lewis and
others – a remarkable group in many ways, particularly because it brought their
many interracial musical influences to the forefront.
In other chapters, “We Couldn’t Believe How Good the Band Was,” the
description of Mulligan’s 1960 Concert Jazz Band that almost bubbles with joy,
with band member bassist Bill Crow’s description of the amazing nightly interplay
with the virtuosic Clark Terry that turned every Mulligan arrangement into a
small-group adventure, with open-ended blowing sections and improvised
accompaniments. Mulligan’s years with Dave Brubeck are also described in
detail, with Mulligan’s interplay with bandleader Brubeck and the always witty
Paul Desmond. The Desmond partnership resulted in an under-recognized
masterpiece of an album, Two of a Mind with just the two saxophonists, bass and
As the book progresses into later years, increasing numbers of Mulligan’s
sidemen are interviewed in detail, including many who have gone on (not unlike
the sidemen of Mulligan’s associate Miles Davis) to become
major jazz figures themselves. Pianists Bill Charlap, Harold Danko and Bill
Mays, bassists Ron Carter, Bill Crow and Brubeck alumnus Jack Six, and
drummers Rich DeRosa and Ron Vincent all make vivid contributions. All of
these fellow musicians not only paint a clear picture of Mulligan as a person and
musician, but also of what it was like to be on the road, traveling and performing
on a nightly basis with someone of Mulligan’s demanding personality. Crow’s
and Charlap’s are particularly are particularly well-spoken and fascinating.
One of the final chapters is all Mulligan’s. In “Kings of the Baritone Sax,”
Gerry describes a number of the great musicians who he knew, including “the
king,” baritonist Harry Carney (Mulligan says Duke Ellington always introduced
him as ‘the world’s second greatest baritone saxophonist,’ a title he took
proudly), Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and
Charlie Parker (he credits Bird’s encouragement of his playing as a great early
motivator), Woody Herman, Antonio Carlos Jobim and composer Alec Wilder.
The book concludes with a Mulligan discography, and an impressive list of
interviews that gives insight into the depth of this book. This book, and
Josephson’s obvious hard work and deep passion, are all deserved by someone
of Mulligan’s depth and importance.
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The New York City Jazz Record, October 2016
Jeru’s Journey: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan
Sanford Josephson (Hal Leonard)
by Ken Dryden
Gerry Mulligan’s career spanned over five decades, yet it is only now, a decade after his death, that a serious biography of the master has appeared. What Sanford Josephson manages to accomplish in a mere 180 pages is remarkable, creating a detailed portrait of the perennial poll-winning baritone saxophonist, noteworthy bandleader, composer and arranger, who also added something special to every band of which he was a part.
Josephson skillfully blends excerpts from Mulligan’s oral autobiography Jeru: In the Words of Gerry Mulligan and the video documentary Listen: Gerry Mulligan, along with the author’s own interviews with the artist and musicians who either played with or were influenced by him. If that isn’t enough, Josephson does a masterful job incorporating excerpts of reviews, articles and liner notes into his text, creating a fast-paced yet thorough history of Mulligan’s many contributions.
While Josephson explores some of the rocky points in Mulligan’s personal life, he does so without descending into tabloid territory. Mulligan changed the role of the baritone saxophone, making it a viable, melodic solo voice, ignoring the supposed limits of its lower range. Recognized for his ability to create memorable impromptu arrangements, Mulligan was also a living jazz historian, blending as well with musicians of earlier styles as those of his generation. Those who have not yet investigated his vast discography will gain a greater appreciation for his work from Josephson’s analysis of his recordings. Josephson also recognizes Mulligan’s compulsion to add background harmonies behind others’ solos to flesh out a song while his gift of creating impromptu counterpoint with Dave Brubeck, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Farmer and others. While most of the focus is correctly on the saxophonist’s work as a leader, Mulligan was very proud of his recordings with Brubeck, with whom he served as a “special guest” for several years.
Josephson’s biography of Gerry Mulligan sets a high standard for all jazz journalists.