Personnel: Charles Mingus (piano); Jay Berliner (guitar); Dick Hafer (flute, clarinet, oboe, tenor saxophone); Jerome Richardson (flute, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone); Eric Dolphy (flute, alto saxophone); Charlie Mariano (alto saxophone); Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone); Rolf Ericson, Richard Williams , Eddie Preston (trumpet); Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman (trombone); Don Butterfield (tuba); Jaki Byard (piano); Dannie Richmond, Walter Perkins (drums).
Recording information: NYC (01/20/1963); NYC (09/20/1963).
Photographers: Bob Ghiraldini; Joe Alper.
Of all the titles in the Impulse! 2 on 1 series, this volume may be the very finest. It pairs two indisputable classic Charles Mingus titles -- both of which have endured for nearly 50 years -- that were cut during the same year. While The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady was recorded on January 20, 1963, the recording that ended up as Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus was begun that very day, but not finished until September. The former album is rightly regarded as one of (if not the) Mingus' masterpieces for its use of colors, tonalities, expansive harmonies, and the juxtaposition of numerous aspects of the jazz tradition -- from Ellingtonian swing to hard bop, to West Coast and new-thing jazz -- employing a vocal chorus, and even Latin and flamenco flourishes in a single conceptual work played by an 11-piece orchestra. (Mingus had rehearsed much of the material with the band in live settings during the previous year, allowing them to help form the piece before he reined in even the most minute details in the studio.) The latter album here, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, also featured an 11-piece orchestra with a slight variation in personnel: this group featured both Jaki Byard and Eric Dolphy, both of whom played in the quintet/sextet bands that toured Europe in 1964. This set is a recorded career overview of sorts, a re-visioned "greatest hits" as it were with (sometimes radically) reworked versions of earlier material. The titles vary to reflect these changes: "Better Get Hit in Yo Soul"; "Theme for Lester Young" (which is, of course, a new take on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"); "Hora Decubitus" (a raucous overhaul of "E's Flat h's Flat Too)," and "I X Love," which modifies "Nouroog," itself part of "Open Letter to Duke." Speaking of Duke, there is also a fine reading of "Mood Indigo." The lone new piece here, "Celia," might have been a holdover from The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady session, given the two albums' similar start dates. This two-fer contains no bonus material nor any liner notes, only cover reproductions. That said, these are entirely different remasters than the ones that appeared individually from Universal in the '90s. The sound here is full, warm, and rich. These are two absolutely necessary additions to any Mingus fan's shelf, and for novices, they provide an excellent -- if challenging -- portrait of the master at work. ~ Thom Jurek