One of the first live concert albums I ever bought was the 1958 World Pacific 12-inch vinyl recording of selections from the Gerry Mulligan Quartet's 1954 Paris Concert. It was a mono recording, and the concert was one in which Bob Brookmeyer's trombone had replaced Chet Baker's trumpet, so expectations were somewhat mixed. But from the moment the French emcee announced, "Voici, le Gerry Mulligan Quartet" and the crowd roared at the opening bars of "Come Out Wherever You Are," there was no question that this was a cool jazz classic.
There was an excitement in the audience that made its way to the stage and lent a dynamic electricity to the performances. Clips of "Bernie's Tune" and "Walkin' Shoes" from the concert are available on YouTube. Sound engineering has no doubt improved by significantly, and it still remains an album against which to measure any and all future live performance recordings.
All this by way of introduction to the newly released Jazzhaus Liederhalle Stuttgart, 1977 Gerry Mulligan Sextet concert in their Legends Live series. This is the third album from the new label formed to release remastered recordings of the best material garnered from the archives of radio and television performances of Südwestrundfunk Stuttgart, Baden-Baden and Mainz. This initial set of releases also includes live albums from the Cannonball Adderley Quintet and the Benny Goodman Orchestra featuring Anita O'Day.
If this new recording doesn't have quite the electricity of the Paris Concert, it is likely as much due to my emotional investment in the memories of my youth than any fault in the musical performance. Mulligan is as much the master of the progressive sound in '77 as he was in '54. And while back then he was intent on showing what an ensemble could do without a piano, the piano is back for the sextet. Thomas Fay plays piano, Dave Samuels, the vibes, Mike Santiago, guitar, George Duvivier, bass and Bobby Rosengarden plays drums. It is a tight ensemble and the music is cool jazz with a fine touch and a modern edge.