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Collection The Gerry Mulligan Collection

Chet Baker

[Gerry and Chet Baker]. Franca R. Mulligan, photographer. The Gerry Mulligan Collection, Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

Chet Baker's musical affinity with Gerry made it possible for them to improvise contrapuntally with remarkable results. Here Gerry recalls that rare compatibility that made the quartet one of jazz history's most successful collaborative ventures.

Edited Transcript

[Gerry with Bob Brookmeyer]. Franca R. Mulligan, photographer. The Gerry Mulligan Collection, Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

Many of the things that I wrote were worked out, but a lot of the stanzas that we played weren't really worked out ahead of time. Chet and I would sometimes play tunes that we never even discussed, and one or the other of us would just start playing it. We would wind up doing something with it that would sound like an organized arrangement, so people couldn't really tell whether we had worked it out or not. We were also able to do something that, to this day, I don't think that many people are successful at–-make convincing endings. We could go into some kind of a chord extension, a sequence at the end of a piece, that sounded like we worked it out. Each one could hear where the other was going and wind up making sense out of it, so that it sounded like it was written. Sometimes a whole night would go by, and we wouldn't discuss what we were playing, and we would hardly play anything that we would normally play on other nights. We would just play a whole bunch of different things. And that was one of the joys of playing with Chet because we were able to work together so easily in that way. I had never experienced anything like that before and not really since. I've played with other guys with whom I've been able to establish a rapport. All the years with [Bob] Brookmeyer, we were able to anticipate each other, but still not in the same way and not with the same ease that happened with Chet.

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