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Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan, Live at MCG by Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan

Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan, Live at MCG documents a series of concerts in late 1993 at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (MCG) in Pittsburgh, PA. On the same weekend MCG also taped the pilot program for Taylor's long-running NPR jazz series.

These two jazz masters - Mulligan, with his easy flow of ideas and light touch on the bari, and Taylor, a sensitive accompanist and innovative soloist - were old friends which added to the spirit and interplay of this live session. Except for two originals, the tunes are standards. In my opinion, this allows the listener to gain a greater appreciation of improvisation levels. There's a lot going on here and it helps to know the starting point.

The swingers include "Indiana" as well as "Just You Just Me," where Taylor displays his bop credentials, and "Stompin' at the Savoy." It's refreshing to hear "Savoy" outside the structured setting of the big band as Mulligan eases into a stream of variations, built upon by Taylor, on the way to a high-energy conclusion.

The ballads are beautifully played - "Darn That Dream, "Body and Soul," and Duke's inspiring "Come Sunday." "Laura" is less languid than usual and Mulligan's alternate melody becomes a bass camp for exploration. "All the Things You Are" is particularly interesting. Bach would have loved the chart which opens as a fugue and melds with swing. And if you want to hear what a pianist can really do with a left hand, check out Taylor's powerful closing solo.

The two masters each contribute an original. Taylor's "Capricious" is a high-spirited calypso. The familiar Mulligan composition, "Line for Lyons" provides the other two players, bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Carl Allen, their opportunity to shine - and shine they do.

This CD is a treasure. I don't know why MCG took so long to release it but I'm sure glad they did.

Note: MCG is a minority-directed arts and learning center with a focus on youth and jazz. Master musicians appear for performances and clinics, and proceeds of the resulting CDs help support the center.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan
  • CD Title: Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan, Live at MCG
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: MCG Jazz
  • Rating: Five Stars
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