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Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster

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This 1959 recording brings together two fine musicians from worlds that one might not usually connect. Gerry Mulligan's light and airy baritone saxophone represents the "cool," and Ben Webster's burred and blustery tenor is the epitome of a very "warm" swing. When this was recorded, however, the quintet was actually a working band. Mulligan had a profound appreciation of Webster's talent, and the two shared an affection for the music of Duke Ellington and his composing partner, Billy Strayhorn, both of whom are represented here. With pianist Jimmy Rowles, an accompanist of legendary subtlety, and the sparkling rhythm team of bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Mel Lewis, this is wonderful small-group jazz, literally beyond classification. There's something unique in the ensemble sound of the two horns, with all the gravity concentrated in the higher tenor, but this is very much a blowing session, with Webster at his lyrical, passionate best. --Stuart Broomer

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