Charles Mingus: Tensions





Blues and Roots (Rhino/Atlantic R2 75205)

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Charles Mingus (bass), Willie Dennis (trombone), John Handy (alto sax), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Jackie McLean (alto sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Horace Parlan (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums), Booker Ervin (tenor sax).

Composed by Charles Mingus


Recorded: New York, NY; February 4, 1959


Rating: 84/100 (learn more)

“Moods,” “contrasts” and “changes” are a few words that have taken on elemental significance in Mingus’ song titles, or his own references to composition. “Tensions” belongs in that lexicon of fundamental concepts. This piece describes a state of agitation, maybe psychological or social, stacking up ideas to the point of distraction, almost dissolution. Riffs of varying length overlap irregularly. Then they’re restated in dissonant canon. Trilling saxophones interject freely. It’s hectic. Finally (after a long minute-plus), a single voice emerges: the bass, in a stunning solo with hyperactive attack and a vast repertoire of harmonics, slides and leaps. The bridge sounds close to snapping—literally, too.

Reviewer: Joe Petrucelli

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