Gerry Mulligan & Paul Desmond: Battle Hymn of the Republican
Battle Hymn of the Republican
Gerry Mulligan / Paul Desmond Quartet (Verve 519850)
Composed by Paul Desmond.
Recorded: New York, August 27, 1957
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
Who else but frustrated Democrat Paul Desmond could come up with a title as witty as this? Besides being Dave Brubeck's longtime sideman, the altoist who strove to sound "like a dry martini" was known for such quips as: "I have won several prizes as the world's slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness." This collaboration with Gerry Mulligan had long been desired by both men, and the result was well worth the wait. The track is really just straight improvisation on "Tea for Two" changes, but the co-leaders' remarkable rapport elevates it to a higher level. Desmond takes the lead initially with Mulligan providing inventive counterpoint, which then evolves into short, cogent exchanges before Mulligan solos, Benjamin's throbbing bass egging him on. Mulligan primarily takes mini-motifs and expands them with subtle alterations. Desmond solos next with a more biting attack than usual – definitely neither dry, slow nor quiet – his lyrical development containing more extended and intricate lines than Mulligan's. Near the end of Desmond's solo, Mulligan complements Benjamin's basslines with additional effective counterpoint. After Benjamin's deft solo, the two horns engage in an absorbing dual improvisation, their creative phrases intertwining in delightful harmony.
Apparently we owe it to sand that Desmond, the English major, became a musician instead of a writer. As he explained it, "I could only write at the beach, and I kept getting sand in my typewriter." Literature's loss was jazz's gain.
Reviewer: Scott Albin