Friday, December 11, 2009

After Hours

Gerry Mulligan. Line for Lyons

When Chet Baker left Gerry Mulligan to become the world's handsomest drug addict (at least for a time), Mulligan replaced him with a valve trombonist. Those of you who read this sucky blog know that I try to make fun of trombonists just about every chance I get. And why not? They're a big target. In average hands, the instrument sounds like somebody with chronic gas. You can't play it fast and it has little character. I mean that as compared with, say, a saxophone, trumpet or even a piano. Those are my prejudices against the trombone. I hang them all up whenever I listen to Bob Brookmeyer. He's about the closest thing to a genius on the instrument as I've ever heard. True, he plays the valve trombone, but it's still a trombone. You can play faster and not tire out your arm. Otherwise, same mouthpiece, same range, same everything else. If you suck on the slide trombone, you'll suck on the valve trombone. To be honest, I actually like the darker sound of the Mulligan Quartet with Brookmeyer. Chet Baker was an OK trumpet player. Brookmeyer was (and still is) a much better musician than Baker and he's able to blend and contrast with Gerry in very subtle and interesting ways. Gerry also deserves credit for taking a chance on Bob. He could have gotten another trumpet player. but he delved into the lower register by picking a trombone, which is also a baritone-tenor instrument. Although both were in the same register, there was a difference in timbre that I just love. I could listen to these guys forever.

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