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Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan Live At MCG Review

Live. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

...evergreen, engagingly warm but rather safe...

Charles De Ledesma 2007

Pianist Billy Taylor, now in his 87th year, is one of the US’s top jazz celebrities. He played with greats, including Ben Webster, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, has hosted numerous radio shows and is an academic pioneering jazz studies. His style is strictly mainstream, lyrical bebop. The sparring partner on this live 1993 set at the Manchester Craftsman’s Union (MCG), Pittsburgh, is Gerry Mulligan, one of jazz’s great baritone sax players. The duo, with tight, but unobtrusive, rhythmic backing from Chip Jackson on bass and Carl Allen, drums, tread a predictable, but beautifully toned path covering evergreen classics and a few of their own.

Mulligan’s “Line for Lyons” has an infective baritone melody, intersected by Taylor’s jaunty patterns whereas on “All The Things You Are” a deep harmonic interplay reflects the intuitive relationship the two have developed over the years. The final number, the Taylor composition “Capricious”, is exactly that, a witty baritone melody spinning along, while the piano accents mischievously.

Live At MCG is evergreen, engagingly warm but rather safe, quartet jazz where two pros are exploring the oeuvre with humour and love. It is a classic of its type, certainly, but after a few hearings it has a tendency to wash over somewhat. Frankly, it is hard for a baritone sax tone to sustain engagingly over a full set. That said, it is clear what a master of the craft Gerry Mulligan is.

For those who like jazz old school lyrical, this could be your bag, but if you are after something with more edge and surprise, then it really does not hold the ticket.

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