If, from the opening bars of Bill Strayhorn’s ‘Chelsea Bridge’, Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster does not grab you and demand your undivided attention there is no hope for you. This is an astonishing record of two giants of jazz at the very top of their game. Understated it’s been called and yes it is, but in so being it is making a far bigger statement. Less is more; cool is hot – Mulligan’s baritone sax is the perfect foil for the older Webster’s tenor.
Three of the tracks are written by Mulligan yet they sound like they are standards, so skilful is not just the sax playing but also the accompaniment of Leroy Vinnegar on bass and drummer Mel Lewis in the rhythm section but also the excellent Jimmy Rowles, whose piano sounds always just right. It’s been called, “the perfect record for a rainy day” and there’s no arguing the point. Standouts are Cat Walk composed by both saxophonist and ‘Tell Me When’.
Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster was made on two separate days in November and December 1959 at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles.
“Ben and I were a focused, near-functioning little band. That’s why it worked and of course it’s all related to our mutual esteem and musical rapport.” – Gerry Mulligan
The cover with both Mulligan and Webster is the original release while the other is a reissue with additional tracks.