"The only baritone player that I was aware of was Gerry Mulligan. When I heard Lars, I thought, Jesus, there is another way of playing the baritone!"
Read and listen
The Gerry Mulligan Quartet in Paris,
Vol. 1-2 (1954)
California Concerts, Vol. 1-2 (1954)
Lars Gullin Quartet featuring Åke Persson "Piano Holiday" (1953)
The Artistry of Lars Gullin (1958)
Find out more
The Lars Gullin website
The Gerry Mulligan home page
|Hard Rain No 1 November 15, 2005|
|Lars Gullin - a front runner|
When the legendary baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan put together his quartet for the concerts in Paris in June 1954 he was for sure inspired by his Swedish instrumental colleague Lars Gullin.|
Gerry Mulligan was extremely present on stage. Tall, straight back and with his fascinating instrument in all possible positions. He was the rock star of jazz, one of the greats who soon would have to yield for totally different sounds.
Lars Gullin wasn't that bushy in his gestures. He played divinely, but he was more introvert as a stage personality. If you listen to his classic recordings from 1956 you can understand his greatness. The music is without peer.
Mulligans tone is harsher. There is great joy in his live performances, for instance the Paris concert in 1954. The music kind of bounces around. Lars Gullin was the great lyricist.
In a way jazz listeners have taken for granted that Lars Gullin was a follower of Gerry Mulligan. The american received credit for leading the way for a more modern play on the baritone saxophone. He was praised for revolutionizing small band jazz with his quartet without piano.
Gullin was considered a competent follower. But was that really the case? There is reason to scratch a little on what is the normally accepted history. Some interesting details give the picture a little more nuance.
When the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker on trumpet split up in the summer of 1953 Gerry had to sit down for almost a year. Where would he go next? On June 1st 1954 we knew the answer when the new quartet with Bob Brookmeyer on trombone entered the stage in Salle Pleyel, Paris. "Je vais jouer Come out where ever you are " Gerry told in his exotic French and the audience was already in high gear.
Where did Gerry get the idea for this quartet? The inspiration came from Sweden and Lars Gullin! Swedish jazz musicians had for a long time listened closely to the musical development in the USA, especially the so called west coast jazz. Early visits by American greats like Stan Getz had huge significance. Young Swedish musicians like Bengt Hallberg and Lars Gullin got a lot of attention in the USA.
It is clear that Gerry Mulligan had Swedish recordings in his hand when he sat pondering his musical future in the fall of 1953. It is not only a qualified guess that he got a real kick when he heard the two EP-records with the Lars Gullin Quartet including Åke "Kometen" Persson on trombone. The albums had English texts by Ira Gitler and were widely distributed in the USA.
The eight tracks, with Brazil and You blew out the flame as highlights, really showed the possibilities of a pianoless quartet with barytonesax and trombone. The recordings were made on the 12th and 18th of February 1953.
The music of Lars Gullin had great impact and Sweden's leading soloist placed high in both Down Beat and Metronome polls. Mulligan in his turn made contact with Brookmeyer in the spring of 1954 and the quartet that was formed wrote jazz history in Paris.
But we will never know if the Gerry Mulligan Quartet vintage 1954 might have had quite a different set up if Lars Gullin had not shown the way with his exhilarating tracks from the year before.