Mulligans Mosaics

Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL
March 13, 2011

Art Davis

Story by Brad Walseth and Photos by John Broughton, Copyright 2011

The Mulligan Mosaics big band held their residency at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase last week. The band, led by baritone saxophonist Ted Hogarth and bassist Joe Policastro is dedicated to the music of the late, great bari saxophonist/composer and arranger Gerry Mulligan, as well as other music influenced by Mulligan or emerging from the same "West Coast Cool" scene. As promised, several songs from Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool album were presented, including the opening number of the concert, the Mulligan-penned "Venus de Milo." The band is made up of some of the best musicians in the city, and trumpeter Art Davis and bass trumpeter Ryan Schultz, along with Hogarth were the featured soloists on this expanded version of the classic tune. As Policastro pointed out - the songs on Birth of the Cool were recorded as 3-minute singles, but the Mosaics arrange them so the band can stretch out on them. Denzil Best's "Move" followed and gave alto saxophonist Chris Madsen and pianist Kevin Fort the opportunity in the spotlight.

Policastro noted that there were other artists along with Mulligan who were important in the birth of cool of "Third Stream" music, which brought elements of European classical music into American jazz. John Lewis (of the Modern Jazz Quartet) was one such artist, and as such, the Mosaics launched into his arrangements of two Lewis compositions: "Milano" and "Rouge." Policastro and Schultz soloed on the former, while nearly everyone got into the act on the latter.

As befitting the classical influence of these works, french horn player John Shamaly and tuba player Sean Whittaker fleshed out the sound with excellent playing. Shamaly was given extra kudos for filling in at the last minute and basically sight-reading these difficult charts.

Local composer Joe Clark's "Wraith" was a dark, but humorous Halloween stroll with fine solos by Hogarth and Davis on flugelhorn, and driven by drummer Bob Rummage's rattling chains and Policastro's bass walking/running through the graveyard. Back to the Birth of the Cool album, the band then presented "Godchild" which features the tuba, bass and bari sax prominently. Davis, Madsen, Hogarth were featured soloists and Fort offered some of his best playing of the concert on this vivacious number.

The concert continued with a Policastro original, "Durchenader" and Mulligan's famous "Jeru" - with Schultz, Madsen and Policastro featured on the new piece and Davis and Fort on "Jeru." But perhaps the highlight was the lush, luminous version of the Gil Evans-arranged "Moon Dreams." Policastro admitted to being haunted by this tune when he first heard it, and it still maintains its shimmering qualities even after all these years.

Another Policastro number - "Portrait" ended the set on a high note, with solos by Madsen, Schultz and Fort, and exuberant drummer Bob Rummage showing why he is in such demand around the city. The music performed by the Mulligans Mosaics is an integral part of the history of jazz and they deserve to be commended for keeping the flame started by artists like Gerry Mulligan and John Lewis alive.

Bob Rummage

Ted Hogarth

Joe Policastro

Ryan Schultz

Kevin Fort

Chris Madsen

Sean Whitaker

Joe Segal

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