Should you have any questions as to why Miles chose Gerry Mulligan to accompany him on the precedent-setting Birth of the Cool, this previously unreleased 1977 recording from the partnership of the Naxos and Arthaus labels will settle whatever querulousness or qualms that may briefly arise. In Legends Live, Gerry and the band are muscular and inventive, as modern as anything of the time, and when the ensemble lays back in the opening cut, For an Unfinished Woman, letting Mike Santiago loose on guitar, it's evident that they'd been listening to everything, letting nothing slip by. Half way through the solo, Bobby Rosengarden breaks things down in a righteous drum sidestep and, from there, all the solos enhance and break with the melody, at times bordering on dissonance yet never losing sight of the vision.
Besides the aforementioned, you of course get Mulligan on baritone sax, Dave Samuels on vibes, Thomas Fay on piano, and George Duvivier on bass. Not a one of those cats is less than stellar, turning in work that must've had the audience turning backflips in their seats. For ten minutes, the cut wends on until all and sundry are in bliss. This concert took place in Germany, and Europe has always loved jazz, perhaps even more strongly than American audiences, so that affinity is returned to the onlookers in the band's performances. There's a backbone to the gig that's solid as the rock of Gibraltar.
Most of the cuts here are Mulligan's own compositions, with two outstanding standards for garni, and you'd swear the sextet had all chipped in, so strong are the contributions. For 70 minutes, it's just one wave of trad, West Coast, and new-groove cool after another. The recording's extremely well converted from source masters digitally, retaining all the old analogue warmth so that not a gram of, say, the melancholic asides in Funny Valentine goes wanting for nuance. This CD is among three initial releases, the others being from Benny Goodman (here) and Cannonball Adderly (here), and if this schedule is any indication, the glory days of jazz are about to undergo a renaissance.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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