Jerry, Gerry and Oodles of NoodlesWednesday, August 30, 2006
Jerry Hulse was tall and redhaired. He looked like Gerry Mulligan. I didn’t know this because I didn’t know who Gerry Mulligan was. This was 1963 Mexico City. On Monday nights my friend Robert Hijar and our mutual girlfriend Judy Brown (her claim to fame at the time was that her father played tennis with Charles Schulz in Redwood City, California) would attend the jazz sessions at the Benjamin Franklin Library. The library was a propaganda arm of the United States Information Service. There were two residents spies who sat in the back to watch us. They wore pink shirts and white ties. I guess they thought they were invisible. We all took advantage of the free Nescafe. Jerry Hulse presided and he would carefully remove records from their album sleeves and play them on equipment I had never seen before. Robert was familiar with the stuff. He had one and many reel to reel tape decks at home. Many years later he confessed that his mom and dad had worked for the CIA from a backyard "garage" full of electronics. When the evening began Jerry would screw on a Shure cartridge shell to a tone arm with reverence. The sound was superb. This was high fidelity! In his serviceable Spanish (his parents were missionaries) he would explain a bit about the music we were going to listen to. Thanks to Jerry, I discovered all the greats of jazz and why he liked, in particular, Gerry Mulligan.
Around 1964, Robert and I went to that other arm of the USIS, the Instituto Mexicano Americano de Relaciones Culturales to a free Dave Brubeck Quartet concert. While I had seen the quartet some years before in Austin, I would never forget this concert. At the intermission we were informed that Paul Desmond’s father had died and that Mr. Desmond might not come back to play. He did. He played Audrey. This was the first time I ever heard my favourite Brubeck and Desmond tune, Audrey written to honour Desmond’s infatuation with Audrey Hepburn. Henceforth I would be hooked on jazz with a preference for the melodic saxophone styles of Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and Bill Perkins.
While in Argentina in the middle and late 60s I would play André Previn’s My Fair Lady when I was happy and Miles Davis Kind of Blue when I was depressed. Even today when I listen to this latter album I can feel the damp Buenos Aires cold creeping into my bones. I remember of Susy leaving me for the principal violinist of the Teatro Colón, or of Corinne going to England for her career in art. I saw her at her boat in Puerto Nuevo and went home to Miles Davis.
But now, even though I have many more jazz albums that I can ever play in one long weekend sitting, I listen to the same stuff over an over. I listen and compare Stan Getz and Kenny Barron’s version of Charlie Haden’s first song (for Ruth) with Haden’s own from Charlie Haden Quartet West – Angel City. I enjoy André Previn and J.J. Johnson Play Kurt Weill's Mack the Knife & Bilbao Song and other music from the Threepenny Opera Happy End Mahagonny. But if I had to go to a desert island I would probably take my 10 versions of Gerry Mulligan playing My Funny Valentine. I have several with Chet Baker on trumpet and one where he even sounds like he is playing a mariachi trumpet. I have one with Bobby Brookmeyer on valve trombone. But my favourite of all is from The Gerry Mulligan Quartet – What Is There To Say with Art Farmer on the trumpet. This recording from 1959 (a perfect stereo record, sax on the left, trumpet on the right) has one of my favourite jazz photographs (the photographer is not credited). Gerry looks just like Jerry. On the left it's Art Farmer, and on the right it's Dave Bailey on drums and Bill Crow on bass.
I have been playing a lot of Mulligan to Rebecca. Because she is learning to play the piano, I am explaining to her the Mulligan concept of the pianoless quartet. She can already tell the difference in sound between the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Perhaps she is ready to listen to the first jazz album I ever bought ( I bought it in Austin in 1958 and I still have it). I will have to play her Dorsey's Oodles of Noodles from Herbie Mann's The Magic Flute of Herbie Mann.
While that André Previn/J.J. Johnson record title may seem long, my guess is that the longest is from that other fave of mine:
Lalo Schifrin The Dissection and reconstruction of music from the past as performed by the inmates of Lalo Schifrin's demented ensemble as a tribute to the memory of the Marquis de Sade, Verve V/V6-8654