Gerry Mulligan The Emarcy Sextet Recordings on Limited Edition 180g 5LP Box Set
The 1955-56 Gerry Mulligan Sextet was an outstanding ensemble on several levels. In Jon Eardley, Bob Brookmeyer and Zoot Sims, Mulligan found soloists with the same high degree of invention and melodic development that he possessed. The light buoyant swing of Peck Morrison and Dave Bailey without the weight of a chordal instrument was inspiring to the soloists and a joy for the listener. But the most compelling characteristic of this sextet was Mulligan's ability to write brilliant arrangements for a small group that possessed the drive and intricacy of a big band.
After three productive sessions in September/October 1955, material was selected for Presenting The Gerry Mulligan Sextet, the first release by the group and Mulligan's first release on a major label, Mercury's Emarcy imprint. The music was hailed as a critical success and the sextet was generally considered the perfect vehicle for Mulligan; it had four melody voices for the intricate and varied arrangements and still allowed the looseness and interplay of a small group setting. However, record sales didn't reflect the success of the music.
When Peck Morrison left at the end of '55, Mulligan hired bassist Bill Crow who'd spent much of the early fifties with Stan Getz and Marian McPartland. The team of Crow and Bailey would remain with Mulligan through a variety of ensembles including the Concert Jazz Band until 1964. The next session on January 25, 1956 would be Eardley's last with Mulligan. He left the group at end of its European spring tour and was generally inactive until 1963 when he moved to Belgium and resumed his career in Europe.
Don Ferrara, a former member of Woody Herman's orchestra and frequent collaborator with Lee Konitz, joined the sextet in time for its final Emarcy session on September 26, 1956. He would later be a charter member of Gerry's Concert Jazz Band (1960-'62). The sextet did not last long beyond this session. Mulligan paired back down to a quartet (Brookmeyer, Crow and Bailey) and hit the road. Emarcy pulled one more sextet album together from the 1956 sessions entitled Mainstream Of Jazz. Again the music was met with critical acclaim and commercial indifference. With the sextet and his major label contract over, Mulligan returned to the quartet format and to Pacific Jazz Records.
The sextet became the stuff of legend and many wonderful performances from the five Bob Shad-produced Emarcy sessions sat in a tape vault. In the early '60s, perhaps because of the acclaim of the Concert Jazz Band, Mercury's producer Jack Tracy returned to this material to create a third album A Profile Of Gerry Mulligan. Finally in 1984, Kiyoshi Koyama scoured the vault and rescued two more albums worth of material from the sessions which he issued in Japan as Mainstream Of Jazz volumes 2 & 3. Ira Gitler's wonderful liner notes for those albums (reprinted here) provide a wealth of information about the group, the individual musicians and the individual pieces. With the advent of CD, this wonderful music faded further into obscurity. Only a dozen or so tracks made it to CD and usually only in Japan. 60 years from the date of inception comes this Mosaic vinyl set with the complete works of the legendary and largely ignored Gerry Mulligan Sextet.
This set was mastered from the original analog masters by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, in New York. Discs four and five were issued only in Japan in the '80s and mastered from 16-bit digital masters, so Mosaic returned to the original session reels to rebuild those albums in true analog for the first time. The booklet contains an essay on the Gerry Mulligan sextet by Michael Cuscuna, the original liner notes and the extensive notes that Ira Gitler wrote for the Japanese albums in 1984 with an exhaustive history of the group, the musicians and the compositions. The great Herman Leonard attended one of the 1955 Emarcy sextet sessions, camera in hand. His images of Mulligan, Zoot Sims, Bob Brookmeyer, the seldom seen Jon Eardley, Peck Morrison and Dave Bailey in action are stunning.