Personnel: Charles Mingus (acoustic bass); Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute); Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone); Johnny Coles (trumpet); Jaki Byard (piano); Dannie Richmond (drums).
Recorded at Town Hall, New York, New York on April 4, 1964. Originally released on Jazz Workshop (005-S). Includes original liner notes by Charles Mingus.
Digitally remastered by Danny Kopelson (1990, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).
Consisting of two lengthy pieces, this 1964 concert captures one of Mingus' finest ensembles doing what they do best. The first piece, "So Long Eric" (named for saxophonist, bass clarinettist and flautist Eric Dolphy who died two months after this recording), is a free-form blues that slows, shifts to double-time, somersaults over itself through themes and changes, before arriving at a section of dreamlike intensity in which Dolphy seems to be channelling otherworldly spirits through his alto.
The second track, "Meditations" (here called "Praying With Eric"), is a kaleidoscopic Mingus masterwork. Here Mingus shows his inclination toward the classical mode of composition: the pulsing, tribal intro is reminiscent of Stravinsky, Dolphy's flute soars above Mingus's eerie, gorgeous bowed bass, with Jaki Byard's concert piano weaving webs around them both. The piece unfolds in a manic hybrid: blues, swing, violent discord and improvisation which is both playful and astonishingly skillful. The energy of the composition develops almost like a piece of theater: stops, tempo shifts and antiphonal passages create dramatic tension, build to a fever pitch, then dissolve into thin, disparate interwoven instrumental strains. For the ambition and accomplishment of this track alone, TOWN HALL CONCERT merits a recommendation.