Gerry Mulligan Quartet – Spring Is Sprung

More Gerry Mulligan

More Jazz Recordings featuring the Saxophone

  • With shootout-winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, it just doesn’t get any better than this copy of Mulligan’s superb sounding and Hard To Find 1963 release on Philips
  • Quincy Jones directed, and Phil Ramone made sure the album would be exceptionally well-recorded, which it is!
  • Big, rich, and Tubey Magical, this pressing let us hear Mulligan’s quartet with the energy and clarity these classic jazz performances deserve
  • 4 Stars: “Mulligan and Brookmeyer always seem to stimulate one another’s playing to a high level, and this album is no exception. The group gets into a swinging groove right away with its updated treatment of a Count Basie favorite, “Jive at Five,” followed by Mulligan’s brisk yet intricate jazz waltz “Four for Three.””

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Philips pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

This record is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, but those of us with a good turntable couldn’t care less.

This vintage stereo pressing has the kind of Midrange Magic that modern records barely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it ain’t coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage All Tube Analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. Clean and Clear Yet Rich and Sweet.

This copy managed to find the ideal balance of these attributes. You want to find that rare copy that keeps what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of ’60s Jazz while managing to avoid the pitfalls so common to them: compression, opacity, veiling, and too many more to list.

To be sure, the fault is not with the recording (I guess; again, not having heard the master tape) but with the typical pressing. Bad vinyl, bad mastering, who knows why so many copies sound so thick, dead and dull?

What the Best Sides of Spring Is Sprung Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

The Big Room

Huge amounts of ambience fill out the space and extend from wall to wall (and all the way to the back wall of the studio), leaving plenty of room around each of the players.

Full-bodied sound, open and spacious, bursting with life and energy — these are the hallmarks of our Truly Hot Stampers. If your stereo is cookin’ these days, this record will surely be an unqualified Sonic Treat.

What We’re Listening For on Spring Is Sprung

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.


Side One

Jive At Five
Four For Three
17 Mile Drive

Side Two

Subterranean Blues
Spring Is Sprung
Open Country

AMG Review

This obscure Phillips LP features Gerry Mulligan leading a quartet with his frequent collaborator Bob Brookmeyer, bassist Bill Crow, and drummer Gus Johnson. Mulligan and Brookmeyer always seem to stimulate one another’s playing to a high level, and this album is no exception.

The group gets into a swinging groove right away with its updated treatment of a Count Basie favorite, “Jive at Five,” followed by Mulligan’s brisk yet intricate jazz waltz “Four for Three.” Brookmeyer switches to piano for the leader’s loping “Subterranean Blues.” Mulligan takes his place at the keyboard for “Spring Is Sprung,” a brisk blues that showcases the valve trombonist extensively, though Mulligan’s piano chops shouldn’t be discounted. The session wraps with yet another look at Brookmeyer’s “Open Country,” a great piece of which Mulligan was very fond.

Peter Stenshoel’s album of the week: Spring Is Sprung by Gerry Mulligan

Fresh on the heels of learning to love both Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk, I spied yet another Quartet record at Sioux Falls’ Lewis Drug. Not familiar with the name Gerry Mulligan, I still took a chance and somehow cajoled my mother to buy Spring Is Sprung–perhaps for somebody’s birthday.

The find was delightful. The reason didn’t hit me at first, but the music’s airy texture owes itself to the lack of piano. And at least two geniuses are at work. Gerry Mulligan’s baritone sax is confident and friendly. Bob Brookmeyer’s valve trombone collides with Mulligan and teases out tangy counterpoint and growl. Listen to how well they communicate in their pared down version of the Count Basie and Harry “Sweets” Edison vehicle, Jive At Five.

Pianoless quartets were something Mulligan pioneered with Chet Baker in the late 40s. It requires a special ear to arrange charts without the large harmonic assistance of a keyboard. Mulligan’s skill as an arranger is evident in his collaborations with Miles Davis, Claude Thornhill, and Stan Kenton. Piano does make its way in to side two of Spring Is Sprung, where Mulligan and Brookmeyer play one chart each to enhance the other’s solo performance.

It turns out this Philips record is quite rare. This quartet did concerts in Europe but after three years was disbanded as Mulligan moved on to yet another quartet and all kinds of collaborations.