Getting the Band Back Together

HOT HOUSE JAZZ MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2018

Drummer Ron Vincent was in Gerry Mulligan’s band from 1990 to 1996; he periodically revisited the maestro’s music afterward in groups with various configurations such as two pianos or three horns. He hadn’t ventured into any Mulligan-related projects this century, but a few months back Ron was listening to the sax giant’s music on his phone and felt a pull: “It would be fun to play that again!”

The wish becomes reality early this month, when he and a handful of like-minded colleagues join to pay tribute to the jazz genius. Each member of the quintet has close connections to Gerry and his music: Pianist Bill Mays and bassist Dean Johnson played together in Gerry’s band and trumpeter Marvin Stamm was a mainstay of earlier Mulligan aggregations. “They all have that sensibility and they each have their own vision,” Ron points out.

Reed maven Scott Robinson never performed with Mulligan but did play the legendary saxophonist’s horn when the Library of Congress celebrated the opening of the permanent exhibit of the Gerry Mulligan Collection. Scott is bringing his own bari for this month’s tribute gig, plus there could be some surprises.

“Scott may play a couple of things on tenor. He’s such a great multi-instrumentalist, it’s hard to deny someone that good. I hope he does bring along other instruments, that would be fun,” Ron says. Ron cites Mulligan as a “groundbreaker on baritone. He had a sweet sound that nobody else ever got. Nobody else ever played baritone that way.”

The band has a wealth of exciting Mulligan material to choose from: The saxophonist was also a prolific composer and arranger from his late teens on. He even wrote for the legendary Miles Davis album Birth of the Cool. Ron was in Gerry’s band when he revisited those compositions on his Re-Birth of the Cool recording in 1991 and listeners are likely to get a sampling from that era.

Bill Mays will take a break when the focus turns to songs associated with Mulligan’s renowned piano-less quartet. “He was already on the jazz map, but the piano-less band put Gerry on the map with a bigger star,” Ron notes. “We’ll also play other things that were hits for him, such as ‘Bernie’s Tune,’ plus ones I like, such as ‘Theme for Jobim’ and ‘Sun on the Stars.’”

Join Ron and company at the Jazz Forum in Tarrytown Oct. 5-6 as they pay tribute to the great Gerry Mulligan. And don’t miss the chance to wish Ron happy birthday a little early—the actual date is Oct. 18, so you may be among the first.

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