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Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus – Charlie Mingus plays in and leads an 11-man ensemble in mostly his own compositions


Published on May 18, 2005

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus – Charlie Mingus plays in and leads an 11-man ensemble in mostly his own compositions
Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus – Charlie Mingus plays in and
leads an 11-man ensemble in mostly his own compositions (incl. Britt
Woodman, Booker Irvin, Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, Charles Mariano, Jerome
Richardson) – Impulse! AS-54/Speakers Corner import ****:

This 1963 Impulse album really featured Mingus in a big way, with his
name repeated five times on the cover. And it stands as one of the most
important of his recorded repertory. The burly and grouchy bass player,
composer, arranger and band leader regarded himself as an “animal
trainer” in keeping his sidemen performing up to his expectations at
all times. And that wasn’t easy for these top jazzmen either, since
Mingus was famous for changing his charts all the time and singing the
changes in tunes over the phone to his players – then demanding
something different from them onstage! I recall doing some photography
backstage at a Newport Festival with Mingus arriving in high dudgeon
because one of his sidemen hadn’t yet arrived – who had all the music
with him! To give Mingus the benefit of the doubt, he was a genius and
he did have some horrific bad luck in his life.

Six of the seven numbers here are Mingus’ – he learned arranging from
Duke Ellington and emulated Ellington in liking to slant his charts
specifically to the individual talents of his sidemen. The non-Mingus
tune is the Duke’s Mood Indigo. The others are full of the gutsy,
forceful and strongly rhythmic Mingus style and several feature the
strong and meaty sound of his acoustic bass front and center, which
often serves to drive on his players to greater spontaneous emotional
expression. IX Love is lyrical but still retains the strongly-stated
Mingus approach. For some echt-Mingus, dig Better Git Hit In Yo’ Soul
with its rousing, bouncing rhythms and hand-clapping.

Clapping is a great test of fidelity and comes off with startling
realism here. So does Mingus’ bass in the dead center of the
soundstage. In fact, rather than suffering from the hole-in-the-middle
effect of many early stereo recordings, this one seems to have two
holes – one on either side of Mingus in the center – whether you have a
center channel speaker or not. Almost like the players are in three
different studios. (I was wishing for the very useful L + R knob on my
Apt-Holman preamp of yore.) The deep bass notes of Mingus’ instrument
are cleanly and tunefully reproduced, and the drum set sounds less
tinny than on many early jazz recordings. I have some original Impulse
LPs but not this one. Speakers Corner points out that most of them
suffered from “streaks.” I’m not sure what that means – perhaps
something lost in the translation from the German – but I know that
this disc sounds 100% better than those Impulse LPs I have. A very odd
notice on this disc which I remember being nonplussed by years ago on
the original Impulses: The 1963 artwork is replicated here and in large
letters on both the back cover and inside it says ETHNIC FOLK-DANCE
MUSIC! It doesn’t sound like Mingus’ humor. Go figger…

Tracks: II B.S., IX Love, Celia, Mood Indigo, Better Git Hit In Yo’ Soul, Theme for Lester Young, Hora Decubitus.

- John Henry




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