I was on a quest for copies of 1930’s Downbeat Magazine. Hardly a magazine in configuration and paper quality... the newspaper sized jazz trade rag had been reduced to pulp. Not even Downbeat Magazine had archived copies from so far back. Cheap acidic papyrus doesn’t age well. You know what I was after. Downbeat was where the twenty something year old, freshly minted from Harvard George Frazier was turning phrases.
A stunning and resourceful journalist made me aware that The Library of Congress might indeed have some of the Holy Grail Downbeats on microfilm. And she accompanied me on what was to be an onerous but productive mission to procure Frazier’s earliest words. Words…some of which his own son Frazier IV, had never read. That alone was fuel enough for me to make certain to procure them.
But it was Gerry Mulligan’s baritone sax that first greeted me as we rounded the corner and approached the Performing Arts Reading Room. Damn, that thing is big.
I’ve always been Gerry Mulligan aware but wasn’t neccesarily a Mulligan fanatic. But the big bari sax got me to thinking about the guy who piloted it.
And the book at Bartleby’s was only ten bucks.
Now it’s no secret that Charlie Davidson and his Andover Shop cognoscenti have outfitted many jazz greats from time to time including Miles Davis. Part of the Charlie Davidson—George Frazier connection glue was jazz so all of this just seems to kind of fit. Frazier-Downbeat-Jazz-Davidson-Andover Shop-Trad.
So where does Mulligan fit-in? I’m not one hundred percent certain. Mulligan began working with Gene Krupa around 1946 and Frazier wrote about Krupa with some regularity. But by the time Mulligan joined Krupa, George Frazier and Downbeat were already and forever estranged. So Mulligan dodged for better or worse, any Frazier observations. Krupa fired Mulligan after a year anyway. It seems that Mulligan, within earshot of the audience one night, gave the Krupa orchestra shit for playing sloppily. That’s just the kind of story that George Frazier could have...with accelerated alacrity, had flying off the front page of Downbeat.
But what about Mulligan’s clothes?
“At the tailor shop in Cambridge Massachusetts” What’s the likelihood that in 1956, Mulligan got word that The Andover Shop would treat him right?
Might that be George Frazier’s future “Saturday morning chair” behind Mulligan?
I can’t prove it but it’s a hell of a lotta fun to think it.
Onward. Reading books. And thinking. About stuff.