Saturday, June 11, 2005

Top 5 Mingus Albums

I have been spending a lot of time listening to the new album from the Mingus Big Band, which features famous (and not so famous) compositions that the great man made over the course of his career. I have a lot of Mingus records and CDs and this is the list I came up with of my favorites:

1. Mingus Ah-Um: One of Mingus' most well known albums, This top to bottom masterpiece features some of the bassists finest compositions like "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and "Better Get It in Your Soul." But everything is wonderful here.

2. Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus: This one isn't as well known since it was one of Mingus self-produced projects and spent many years out of print. A mock live set, recorded in an empty club with a pianoless quartet featuring Eric Dolphy. His telepathic performance with Mingus on "What Love" must be heard to be believed.

3. Mingus at Carnegie Hall: Mingus' health troubles kept him out of action for much of the late 60's but he made a strong comeback in the early 70's. This is built around two side-long versions of a couple of Ellington tunes "C-Jam Blues" and "Perdido" giving the soloists a chance to stretch out at length and Mingus to sit back and drive. Rahsaan Roland Kirk in particular is awe inspiring, with a couple of epic tenor saxophone solos.

4. Blues and Roots: Mingus takes his gospel and R&B influences to town on this wonderfully emotional record. Mingus blasts the band along on bass and also with shouted encouragement. "Wednesday Night Payer Meeting" is one of the most intense jazz performances ever recorded.

5. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: This album presents some of Mingus most intricate composing and arranging. Overdubbing and re-arranging parts on the fly, this brings in everything from classical music to flamenco, creating intricate, beautiful music that references Ellington, Stravinsky and everything in between.

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