Monday, April 05, 2004

Charles Mingus – Changes One (Atlantic, 1974)

Charles Mingus emerged from a very difficult period of mental and physical illness (see Gene Santoro’s Myself When I Am Real for information about that in excruciating detail) to form one of the finest working bands of his career. Joined by George Adams on tenor saxophone and vocals, Don Pullen on piano, Jack Walrath on trumpet and Mingus stalwart Dannie Richmond on drums, he released Changes One and Two (two separate albums) in the mid 1970’s.

The band comes out of the gate with one of Mingus’ finest political commentary compositions, “Remember Rockefeller at Attica,” which was written to commemorate the prison riot that had just taken place in upstate New York. The swirling mid-tempo composition echoes and at one time directly quotes Mingus’ most famous political piece, “Fables of Faubus.” “Sue’s Changes” was written for Mingus’ eventual wife Sue Graham and is a multi-leyered piece of music with several sections, starting as a ballad and evolving into very dramatic music. Sue was his muse during his final years and he wrote several compositions for her.

The record takes a lighthearted turn as George Adams takes to the mic to sing a gruff but enthusiastic version of Clarence Gatemouth Brown’s “Devil Woman.” Adams isn’t the most adept singer in the world, but he’s clearly having a lot of fun and this gives the band a chance to stretch out on the blues. Mingus wrote the final song, “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” as a tribute just after Ellington passed away. Easily one of Mingus’ best later compositions, the deeply emotional melody draws beautiful solos from all of the band members.

Sadly, Mingus’ health would begin to decline shortly after this album was released. But it sealed his reputation as one of the finest musicians and composers of the 20th century. Geoege Adams, Don Pullen and for a while Dannie Richmond would go on to form perhaps the finest jazz group of the 1980’s, the Adams/Pullen quartet.

Rating: 9

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