Monday, May 28, 2007

Charles Mingus - In Paris: The Complete America Session (Sunnyside, 2007)

This is a re-release of an obscure Charles Mingus session originally recorded for the America label. The legendary bassist and composer is joined by Jaki Byard on piano, Bobby Jones on tenor saxophone, Charles McPherson on alto saxophone, Eddie Preston on trumpet, and Dannie Richmond on drums. This is a two disc set which I downloaded through Emusic, the first disc is all of the master takes, and then the second is made up of false starts and incomplete takes. I only downloaded disc one. After a brief warm-up with "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" the band follows with some of the finest long form improvising of Mingus's final period. He had been battling depression and would soon feel the effects of Lou Gherig's disease, but on these recordings the leader and indeed the entire band play as if within a state of grace. "Reincarnation of a Lovebird" and "Peggy's Blue Skylight" are astounding group improvisations. The band lacks an extraordinary solo voice like Mingus had available previously with the likes of Eric Dolphy or Booker Ervin, so everyone rallies together and collectively explores the compositional terrain like conquistadors in the New World. There are some fine solos throughout the disc, but it is the group triumph that stands out, culminating with a spectacular re-recording of one of Mingus's most influential compositions "Pithecanthropus Erectus" in which he does no less than detail the rise of man in music. The music itself rises to an amazing level with everyone at the top of their game. Hopefully this release will raise the profile of the music recorded herein, because it is played at a very high level.

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