Jazz Society of Oregon, George Fendel, July 2010
Live At The Jazz Showcase, Ted Hogarth and The Mulligan Mosaics Big Band.
Gerry Mulligan’s fascinating Concert Jazz Band came along (early ‘60s) just as big bands were, for the most part, fading fast. And it’s a shame that the CJB didn’t enjoy sustained success because it was innovative and exciting. Mulligan applied his small combo concept to a big band setting and worked miracles. Hogarth, himself a baritone sax player, has embraced the CJB feel with open arms, and his band takes on both Mulligan tunes as well as the works of other composers which were also important vehicles for the CJB (such as “Black Nightgown,” “All of You,” and “ Waltz for Ruth”). From his earliest days through Birth of the Cool, the piano-less quartet, the Concert Jazz Band, and countless other classy musical assignments, Gerry Mulligan was an innovator who never leaned on his laurels. Everything he did was worthy musically, and it’s very nice to see that an ensemble such as the Mulligan Mosaics recognize Mulligan’s lofty place in jazz history. They honor him with this wonderfully crafted work.
Chicago Tribune, Howard Reich, March 14, 2011
Rebirth of the 'Cool'
The music from Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool" has been revived by various musicians since Capitol released the landmark album in 1957 (though the cuts were originally recorded in the late 1940s). But rarely has this music sounded as sleekly elegant in performance as it did over the weekend at the Jazz Showcase.
The Mulligan Mosaics Nonet devised a clever strategy for rejuvenating the suite: perform newly minted transcriptions of tunes from "Birth of the Cool" in alteration with freshly composed pieces written for the same, unusual instrumental forces (which include French horn and tuba).
Playing to a capacity house on Saturday night, the Mulligan nonet sounded thoroughly persuasive in the "Birth of the Cool" material, thanks to well-chosen tempos and a robust, beautifully weighted tone. "Moon Dreams" inspired one of the evening's most alluring performances, particularly in its glowing, otherworldly coda.
Among the evening's soloists, trumpeter Art Davis acquitted himself handsomely (if not quite flawlessly) in the daunting task of taking the role of Miles Davis (no relation).
Several of the newly composed works deserve to be heard again, particularly Joe Clark's haunting, harmonically astringent "Wraith"; Joe Policastro's exquisitely voiced "Durcheinander"; and Policastro's shimmering arrangement of John Lewis' "Milano."
Though the engagement ended Sunday, it ought to mark the start – not the finish – of this "Birth of the Cool" revival. The Mulligan Mosaics organization now has at its fingertips an appealing way of illuminating a pivotal moment in jazz history.
Audiophile Audition, Robbie Gerson, May 27, 2010
Ted Hogarth and the Gerry Mulligan Mosaics Big Band – Live At The Jazz Showcase – Mulligan Mosaics, 47:23 ****: Hogarth introduces the Gerry Mulligan Concert Band arrangements to a new generation of jazz enthusiasts.
As The Big Band sound began to disappear, the era of cool jazz began. One of the pioneers, Gerry Mulligan, never lost his fascination with the arrangements for larger groups with huge horn sections. In the early 60s, he put together the Gerry Mulligan Concert band, emphasizing the “combo in a band” context. The project was short-lived. Ted Hogarth, a passionate jazz musician, teacher, composer, and arranger, went on a quest to revive this music. After contacting Franca Mulligan, Gerry’s widow, Hogarth has resurrected this material with his own big band as well as making the material available for student performance and study.
At the core of The Mulligan Mosaic Big Band is the unique lineup, 11 horns and a bass and drums. Without the usual chordal instruments (piano, guitar), the compositions are loaded with solos and sonically connected backgrounds. Several of the musicians on the CD are also teachers and composers and have contributed to the intricate arrangements.
The opening two pieces, “Five Brothers” and “Black Nightgown”, gives the band room to swing and develop multiple solos. There are seamless transitions from baritone saxophone (Ted Hogarth) to trombone (Tim Coffman), trombone into trumpet (Tom Tallman), and excellent background sound blending. A blistering version of “Apple Core” gives Mark Colby (tenor Saxophone ) a chance to showcase his swing playing abilities. A scintillating cover of Billy Strayhorn’s “Intimacy of the Blues” surprises with an extended bass solo that precedes an inspired baritone romp by Hogarth. A modern composition, “Waltz For Ruth” is distinguished by the bass trombone lead. Jazz aficionados will appreciate the melody chart of “Lady Chatterly’s Mother, with its subtle thematic nod to “Sleigh Ride.”
Recorded at the Jazz Showcase, the live audience is an ideal setting for this appealing and nostalgic elegy to the jazz pastime.
Jazz Times, Harvey Siders, 6/7/10
Back in the early Fifties, when Gerry Mulligan formed his famous quartet with Chet Baker, it was without a piano to provide that front line with the ultimate harmonic freedom. In 1960, when Mulligan expanded his composing and arranging palettes to embrace the 13-member Concert Jazz Band, he again eschewed piano. Four years ago, when Chicago's Ted Hogarth created his homage to Mulligan with the Mulligan Mosaics Big Band, the latter consisted of 13 players but no pianist. That's where most similarities end.
Hogarth has successfully re-created the spirit of the original Concert Jazz Band (he was given total access to the Mulligan library by Gerry's widow, Franca), with first-class Chicago-area musicians, but the spirit of the solo work fails to match the original excitement of exploration. No surprises there; how can one expect baritonist Hogarth to duplicate the pristine freshness of the two Mulligan solos on the Brookmeyer chart, "A Ballad," or what tenorist Mark Colby does with Bill Holman's arrangement of "Apple Core," originally peeled by Zoot Sims? Another highlight comes on the Billy Strayhorn composition, "Intimacy of the Blues." As arranged by Tom Matta, the orchestration of the horns behind Colby and Matta's own trumpet are sufficiently chordal to make up for the comping of a piano or guitar.
Hogarth's intent, for this project, is to honor-by-update...not to duplicate. He successfully refreshes the Mulligan message and even makes orchestrations available online through the Library of Congress. That should provide enough to feed a whole new generation plenty of Mulligan stew.
Chicago Jazz Magazine, Paul Abella, 9/21/2010
Chicago has no lack of outstanding big bands and jazz orchestras. Whether you’re looking for outstanding charts (Brian O’Hearn and the Model Citizens), fire breathing players (Rob Parton’s Jazztech Big Band), swing-era tunes (WDCB’s John Burnett), or even free jazz (Keefe Jackson’s Exploding Star Orchestra), Chicago’s got it. Over the past few years, we’ve been able to add another name to that list: Ted Hogarth and the Mulligan Mosaics Big Band.
Now, I’m usually none too keen on giving the back-story to a band in a review. But in this case, the back-story is the story. As one can imagine, Hogarth, being a baritone saxophonist and all, is a big fan of Gerry Mulligan and Gerry’s 10 piece Concert Jazz Band. Well, Ted, after getting the Mulligan Concert Jazz Band boxed set (released on Mosaic records, which says a lot), actually reached out to Mulligan’s widow and in return, got the motherlode: a whole batch of Mulligan’s original charts for the CJB. He recopied them and started the Mulligan Mosaics Big Band, originally doing nothing but Concert Jazz Band tunes and arrangements with some of the finest players in Chicago. As time went on, more arrangements made their way into the band, and it expanded beyond the Mulligan charts.
That brings us to the present recording. Titled appropriately enough, Ted Hogarth and the Mulligan Mosaics Big Band Live at the Jazz Showcase. The band is in fine form, running through a few of Mulligan’s charts, some arrangements from other band members, and even a Charlie Haden tune. The band, no matter what they play, has a character and a sound all its own, and I don’t think a bigger compliment can be paid to a musician or a band than that.
The disc is solid throughout, and there’s not really a bad moment on it. Fans of big band jazz will have a lot to like here. Hogarth solos on most of the tunes, and it’s a testament to his playing that he really brings it no matter the feel. Grooving swinger? No sweat. Ballad? Gorgeous. Ripping up-tempo tune? Makes you wonder how he doesn’t pass out while putting so much air through the horn. Of course, when the other soloists include Tim Coffman, Tom Matta, and Mark Colby, you’d better bring your “A” game, because they’re definitely bringing theirs. Strangely, though, at least for me, many of the highlights end up being the non-Mulligan numbers on the disc, not because the others are lesser tunes (they aren’t), but because the non-Mulligan songs tend to pull the band in some interesting directions.
The Mulligan tunes are all gorgeously executed. “Five Brothers,” “A Ballad,” “Soft Shoe” and “Apple Core” are all outstanding. Oddly, however, most of the Mulligan charts aren’t associated with the Concert Jazz Band. If anything, that makes them more interesting, because the line-up that Ted has put together for the Mulligan Mosaics Band is hardly the normal big band lineup that people expect. Whoever is doing the arranging has to write with a different frame of reference and without a chording instrument. It all makes the band and this disc that much more impressive.
My favorite on the disc (and there are certainly many to choose from) is Johnny Mandel’s “Black Nightgown.” He arranged the song for the Concert Jazz Band, and Hogarth uses that arrangement here. It’s shocking to learn that this was part of a movie score. This hardly sounds like background music and is one of the most grooving tunes on the disc.
Trombonist Bryant Scott contributed one arrangement to the disc, and it’s a beauty: Cole Porter’s “All of You.” Hogarth is the only soloist here, and he does this fantastic chart some justice. This skyrocketed to near the top of my favorite arrangements of this underplayed and underappreciated classic in the jazz canon.
“The Intimacy of the Blues” is played gorgeously in a great arrangement by the outstanding Tom Matta. It’s taken at absolutely the perfect tempo and Art Davis’ solo is worth noting.
The disc wraps up with a stormer, “Lady Chatterly’s Mother, an Al Cohn tune written for the Concert Jazz Band. It’s a great way to end the disc and leave the listener wanting more. Tom Tallman plays a solo here that makes me wish he’d pop up more often on bandstands. The ensemble passages throughout this one are executed exceptionally well and cookin’ would be a great word to describe this tune throughout. If you’re a fan of jazz you need to go check these folks out and Live at the Jazz Showcase is an outstanding place to start.