Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jazz Icons: Charles Mingus Live in '64 (Jazz Icons, 2007)

In 1964, the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus toured Europe with what was probably the greatest band of his career. Eric Dolphy on flute, alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Jaki Byard on piano, Johnny Coles on trumpet, Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone and Danny Richmond on drums made up an epic unit that brought Mingus's compositions to life as never before. This band was well documented on this tour, both officially and unofficially (Mingus's widow Sue has spent years chasing down the bootleggers) but this DVD is officially released, digitally remastered television footage which is a joy to behold. Dolphy was getting ready to leave the band, striking out on his own like many expatriate jazzmen before him who were tired of racism and lack of opportunity in the United States. "So Long Eric" is a long form composition that Mingus wrote for his departure. These compositions are long and complex, but the band never misses a beat, and seems to revel in the challenges presented to them. "Meditations on Integration" and "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk" move through ever shifting sections of melody and improvisation with beauty and grace. Dolphy is the centerpiece of the Charlie Parker tribute "Ow" or "Parkerania." He was truly Parker's heir, taking the alto saxophone and the bebop language into the space age with a completely unique style. Byard is a wonder too, bouncing from bop to stride to free, he was a chameleon, able to play in any situation and in any type of music. The footage here is all black and white, but looks great. Seeing these legendary musicians in this way after listening to them on disc for so long is a moving experience and is highly recommended. Jazz Icons: Charles Mingus Live in '64 -

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