The Mystery and Grace of JERU

It probably doesn't speak well for my mental health, but often for no reason I can fathom, I wake up with a particular record deeply embedded in my mind and ears. Almost as though it had been played constantly by jazz elves while I slept, as some kind of weird music-hypnosis therapy. This happened quite early on Saturday morning, when I couldn't get a Gerry Mulligan record called JERU out of my head even while half asleep. There was nothing for it but to cry uncle, get up, brew some coffee and put the damn thing on. It sounded wonderful as always, so much so that I replayed it several times and decided to write about it.                                                                        *** On June 30, 1962, Gerry Mulligan recorded an album in New York called JERU that followed a blueprint common for other saxophonists, but was entirely atypical for him: a pick-up blowing date featuring his baritone as the only horn, backed by a conventional piano-bass-drums rhythm section. (Actually, along with Tommy Flanagan on piano, Ben Tucker on bass and Dave Bailey on drums, Alec Dorsey's conga drums were also used, making it even more unusual for Mulligan.) This simply was not the way Gerry Mulligan went about making records under his own name. He generally liked to record his own tightly-knit, well-rehearsed bands, playing either his compositions or his arrangements of standards, with at least two more [...]

Jazz Cooking: A Bolognese-Puttanesca Hybrid

Last night, I had a craving for the flavour of a simple tomato sauce over pasta, something I haven't had in a while. It's not really a summery dish, but then again it hasn't been all that summery a summer. I set out to make a straightforward Bolognese sauce, made a blunder and ended up with a cross between a Bolognese and a Puttanesca sauce. Much to my surprise and delight, it turned out to be one of the best sauces I've ever made, it was delicious beyond any reasonable expectations. For this reason, and because writing on various jazz matters is going slowwwwly, I thought I'd write about this. Jazz can sustain you in many ways but, the last time I checked, you can't eat it. If you're lucky though, you can still earn enough from jazz to at least put a decent meal on the table, no small thing these days.                                                                 *** I arrived home armed with a pound of ground pork and a large can of crushed tomatoes, Bolognese sauce on my mind. I put the M.J.Q.'s No Sun In Venice on the box, some olive oil in a skillet to warm, and finely chopped a large onion and four cloves of garlic. I dumped the olives and garlic into the skillet and as they hit the warm oil, they made a crackling sizzle just as Connie Kay played a huge, shimmering splash on his open hi-hats. It made me smile; when you cook with a jazz record, things not only smell good but can also sound good, if more [...]