Three years after Gerry Mulligan initially sat in with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the baritone saxophonist arrived at a point where he could perform alongside Brubeck's alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond, for this much anticipated session. When legal issues, wranglings with producer Norman Granz, and the question of which record label would subsidize and release this album were resolved, the two saxophonists went ahead to produce a delightful program of standards and originals where their more playful sides could fully blossom.
The wonderful interaction between Mulligan's burly but agile horn and the ultimate smooth -- but in this case animated and energized -- sax of Desmond is more than just magical, and makes for a fluid, jaunty, delicious combination sure to please even the most jaded or stone-eared music listener. Weaving in and out of improvised phrases, the two sure sound like they are having a ball during Desmond's compositions -- the friendly and carefree discourse of "Blues in Time," the bop vehicle with its jaundiced title "Battle Hymn of the Republican," and "Wintersong" with its subdued blues-based theme where the alto is featured while the bari observantly sits on the side and comments on occasion.
Of the three pieces written by Mulligan, one is quintessential in "Line for Lyons," a classic melody and enduring standard enhanced by the harmonic richness of the horns playing together -- it's a joy hearing their tones and styles mesh beautifully. "Standstill" and "Fallout" have as much merit as any of Mulligan's witty charts: the former a fun, melodic bop tune; the latter showcasing more of the harmonic compatibility of the two saxophonists.
The lone popular standard, "Body and Soul," is mostly Mulligan pining on the age-old lover's plea, with Desmond listening as if to be convinced. Drummer Dave Bailey and bassist Joe Benjamin are along for the ride in this typical Mulligan pianoless quartet, doing their yeoman's work and letting the co-leaders have their spotlight. This is truly a fine example of modern mainstream jazz, another example from that definitive year of 1957, and though it's sadly a one-shot, it's a document thankfully preserved that should be treasured by all fans of jazz.
Michael G. Nastos ~ AllMusicGuide
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