I wasn't even aware of the story behind this album when I started listening to it. Once upon a time, Charles Mingus wrote a huge piece of symphonic jazz entitled Epitaph. He gathered an ensemble in a concert hall and invited an audience to come watch the recording of Epitaph as it was happening.
Well, numerous things were at work against Mingus. For one thing, the piece was not yet finished. The man had a great big picture in his head, but didn't have enough time to write it down for all of the musicians. And because it was not technically finished, it was never properly rehearsed. That night Mingus and his ensemble got up on stage with all of the microphones and proceeded to completely slaughter Epitaph. If you are a musician, you know what it is like to have an "off" night. Well, this is the off night to end all off nights. Mingus stormed off the stage, and locked up the manuscript of Epitaph and denied its existence to his dying day.
The first printing of the Town Hall Concert is supposed to be pretty bad. Roughly put, the tracks were arranged in a very confusing order with many omissions. Years later, Blue Note got ahold of the master tapes and retooled the album to follow the flow of the concert, for what it's worth. They added in the omissions and arranged the order of the tracks to give you a feeling of a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The concert was mud. And no matter how hard you try to polish it, it still comes out mud. Blue Note gives a flattering portrayal of a disasterous event, which places The Complete Town Hall Concert squarly in the middle with a three star rating. If you love Charles Mingus, you are going to get this eventually. But this is no place for a newcomer.