Saturday, March 26, 2011

Charles Mingus Complete 1960 Nat Hentoff Sessions (Solar Records, 2011)

When the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus recorded the albums included in this collection for the Candid label in 1960 he was arguably at the peak of his powers. Beginning with the epochal album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus that takes up most of disc one, he instructs the band to play a mock live set, recorded in an empty studio with a pianoless quartet featuring Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Ted Curson on bass and Dannie Richmond on drums. Dolphy's telepathic performance with Mingus on "What Love" must be heard to be believed, and the "Original Faubus Fables" is one of the most scathing social protests ever recorded in jazz. Much of disc two was originally released as the Mingus LP, and is centered around the amazing near twenty minute "MDM (Monk, Duke & Mingus)" where Mingus combines the music of the two other masters with his own conception of jazz, allowing his sidemen freedom to interpret the music as they see fit, yet remain within the structure of the suite. Disc three consists of the Newport Rebels album, a live set re-created in the studio that allows for the fascinating cross-generational meeting of Roy Eldridge on trumpet and Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone. Mingus and others designed the festival as a competitor to the more famous Newport Jazz Festival that he felt was becoming too commercial and exploitative of the musicians. Two takes of "Body and Soul" and the lengthy jam "R&R" anchor this final disc. Mingus was given complete freedom to choose his sidemen and material on the Candid recordings and they payoffs were extraordinary. The leaders bass playing and compositional structures are excellent and the impact of Eric Dolphy, in this challenging environment is simply awesome. Complete 1960 Nat Hentoff Sessions -

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