Charles Mingus Mingus At Bremen 1964 & 1975
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- Number of Discs: 4
- Released: November 13, 2020
- Originally Released: 2020
- Label: Sunnyside
Personnel: Charles Mingus (piano); George Adams (vocals, tenor saxophone); Eric Dolphy (flute, bass clarinet, alto saxophone); Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone); Jack Walrath, Johnny Coles (trumpet); Don Pullen, Jaki Byard (piano); Dannie Richmond (drums).
Liner Note Author: Bret Sjerven.
Recording information: Post Aula Berman, Germany (04/16/1964); Sendesaal Radio Bermen, Bermen, Germany (04/16/1964); Post Aula Berman, Germany (07/09/1975); Sendesaal Radio Bermen, Bermen, Germany (07/09/1975).
Sunnyside's four-disc Charles Mingus @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 contrasts two complete performances by two of the leader's finest bands. The lineup in Radio Bremen's Studio on April 16, 1964, included trumpeter Johnny Coles (in his final full performance with the band), firebrand alto saxophonist/bass clarinetist Eric Dolphy, tenor saxist Clifford Jordan, pianist Jaki Byard, and drummer Dannie Richmond. This show introduced Germany to Mingus' mercurial temperament as well as his bold modern jazz conception that embraced Ellingtonian swing, bop, hard bop, third stream, and the new thing, and created deliberate tensions between them.
Opener "Hope So Eric" (aka "So Long Eric") is a nearly half-hour-long rowdy case in point. Its title reflects Dolphy's intention to remain in Europe after the tour -- ironically, he would die there only two months later from a mistreated diabetic episode. Its first half features Coles' deep blue solo that underscores his central role among the horns. Byard answers with blocky swing, introducing Jordan's hard-grooving tenor break. Mingus offers an inquisitive bass solo before Dolphy startles with raw, angular, hard-bop blues. "Fables of Faubus" is half an hour of wily, searing modern jazz; each member was given carte blanche to express everything from wit to rage -- and did. Byard moves through the entire history of stride and ragtime piano on his "Piano Solo" (aka "ATFW") before Mingus delivers a resonant bass solo on "Sophisticated Lady." The sprawl of "Parkeriana" finds the band paying a joyous tribute to Charlie Parker with finger-popping swing amid free developments introduced by Dolphy and Byard. "Meditations on Integration" is a provocative set closer; its meandering charts and dialogic solos render its lyric statements poignant. Further, Mingus' arco solo evokes Stravinsky.
The 1975 quintet included Richmond, pianist Don Pullen, trumpeter Jack Walrath, and tenor saxophonist George Adams, the group Mingus assembled after emerging from semi-retirement in 1972. Their playing is revelatory throughout a program derived primarily from Mingus' late classics, Changes One and Changes Two. The 33-minute opener "Sue's Changes" offers the band's astounding range in a suite-like composition that reflects the line where Mingus' bold harmonic conception is framed in funky, mutant blues, elegant balladry, fluid swing, and out jazz with wonderful solos from Walrath, Adams, and Pullen. The bassist's love of Afro-Latin jazz and avant-blues pours from "For Harry Carney," while set closer "Fables of Faubus" juxtaposes harmonically strident funk guided by Mingus' rumbling pizzicato playing. The nearly 40-minute encore begins with a gloriously long "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," which ends with the band sprinting through "Cherokee" with bebop abandon. They return to rhythmic invention on the wooly "Remember Rockefeller at Attica" before concluding with the raucous "Devil Blues," featuring incendiary soloing from Adams and Pullen. Both shows are presented in excellent audio. A decade apart, they offer an insightful and rounded musical portrait of Mingus as the bridge between jazz's history to that point, its unfolding present, and its only-just-glimpsed future. Essential. ~ Thom Jurek