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JAZZ REVIEW : Mulligan Quartet Retains Reputation for Creativity

March 21, 1994|LEONARD FEATHER

For more than 40 years Gerry Mulligan has been one of the most versatile musicians in jazz. Saturday at the Ambassador Auditorium, he displayed his two principal gifts, as baritone saxophonist and composer, while offering evidence of his ability as a talent scout.

Mulligan led his first famous quartet in 1952; since then his quartets, quintets and numerous othertets have maintained a consistently creative level; among them his present group ranks exceptionally high.

Ted Rosenthal is a pianist of rarest skill, weaving rapid single-note lines that span out into rich chordal patterns, parallel octaves and hints of the blues. He works in complete empathy with Mulligan, occasionally doubling the melody but generally playing a subtly supportive role.

Dean Johnson joined the rapidly swelling ranks of brilliant bass players, both in sectional and solo contributions. Ron Vincent on drums completes a spirited group that gives Mulligan the impetus he needs.

If any complaint could be lodged against this admirable program, it would be his near-total failure to announce the tunes. Most were attractive originals; a couple were standards ("Georgia on My Mind," "My Funny Valentine") and "When I Was a Young Man" reminded us that Mulligan has a charming way with words. He should sing more often.

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