Charles Mingus: Self-Portrait in Three Colors


Self-Portrait In Three Colors



Mingus Ah Um (Columbia CK 65512)

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Charles Mingus (bass), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Dannie Richmond (drums), Horace Parlan (piano), John Handy (alto sax),

Curtis Porter (tenor sax)


Composed by Charles Mingus


Recorded: New York, NY; May 12, 1959


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

We could spend a lot of time unpacking just the title of this song (originally written for Shadows, the directorial debut of maverick independent filmmaker John Cassavetes). Is Mingus referring to the Freudian subconscious? His multiracial heritage? His volatile personality? Whichever it may be, his complex identity coheres in this through-composed work, and the self-image is sublime. The piece consists of three cycles through a melody, with no soloists, only slight embellishments and shifting arrangements. The emphasis and perspective change with every chorus, as the title would suggest, but the material remains essentially the same: a perfectly achieved effect. Ervin caps it with a cathartic, tumbling tenor tag.

Reviewer: Joe Petrucelli


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