on August 8, 2007
This is a brilliant, magnificent, previously unreleased, recently discovered recording of Charles Mingus's greatest band - or at least one of them - playing live in March 1964.
The music is scorchingly good, endlessly inventive, full of surprises and played with a fire that only rarely makes it onto record.
The only caveat is that the remarkable sextet in question was extensively documented, performing much the same repertoire. It included Eric Dolphy - one of the supreme jazz figures of the era - on flute, alto and bass clarinet in towering form throughout on extended versions of "Fable of Faubus" and "Meditations", but the rest of the group are not far behind.
If you don't already know mid-'60s Mingus, this double CD is an excellent place to begin. The band, which also boasted Jaki Byard on piano, Johnny Coles trumpet, and Clifford Jordan, tenor, was evidently feeling euphoric that night and the sound is excellent.
And then there's Mingus himself, playing at the top of his form.
Even those who already have a row of recordings by this very ensemble may be tempted by, for example, the wild, impromptu version of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" played by Mingus for the first and last time in honour of St Patrick's Day.
The 1964 tour has a special place for Mingus lovers. Every concert and most rehearsals were recorded and/or filmed. There are numerous legit recordings as well as a host of non legit ones. The band was great: Mingus and Dannie Richmond, Jaki Byard, and the horns of Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan, and Johnny Coles. Coles became ill midway through the tour so it is great to have him on this recording.
This concert was a month before the tour---almost like a tryout of the material with this group. And, for someone like me, who has ALL the recordings from the tour, this one is a standout. The players are all hot and give great extended performances. Mingus himself is in a great mood as can be heard with his comments to the both the audience and band members during the performances.
Take the A Train is a real standout since it was done only one other time on the tour. And When Irish Eyes are Smiling is a genuine hoot.
The highlight for me is Meditations, arguably Mingus' best composition. here it gets a 31 minute workout, much longer than any other performance on the tour.
So even though many MIngus fans will have heard most of the material on this cd with these same musicians, the performances here are definitely worth the price of admission.