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ALBUM REVIEWS : ***** GERRY MULLIGAN AND BEN WEBSTER "Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster" Verve

July 29, 1990|ZAN STEWART

This 1959 session turned out to be a match made in heaven: tenor saxophonist Webster with his humongous sound and straightforward sense of swing teamed with the baritonist who cooked but in a more obtuse way. As it happens, Mulligan was every inch the sure-footed swinger who complemented Webster's gutsy-toned moves, like Kelly and Astaire in tandem.

Though medium-tempo tunes make up most the material, the date belongs to a steamy take of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," which segues from Webster's sonic regality, captured at its most glorious (the digital remastering of this analog session results in spectacular sound) to an easy, loping Mulligan and back again--perhaps the definitive version of this tender song.

And there's more: the bold swagger of "Who's Got Rhythm?" and "Sunday," the lovely Mulligan ballad "Tell Me When" and five previously unreleased titles, "In a Mellotone" and a slowly stated "What Is This Thing Called Love?" among them. The rhythm section of Jimmy Rowles, piano, Leroy Vinegar, bass, and Mel Lewis, drums, fits hand-in-glove with the leaders. You can play this one forever.

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