Charles Mingus: C Jam Blues


C Jam Blues



Mingus at Carnegie Hall (Atlantic 1667)

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Charles Mingus (bass), John Handy (tenor sax), Charles McPherson (alto sax), George Adams (tenor sax), Rahsaan Roland Kirk (tenor sax), Hamiet Bluiett (baritone sax), Jon Faddis (trumpet), Don Pullen (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums).

Composed by Duke Ellington


Recorded: Carnegie Hall, New York, January 19, 1974


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Jazz composers usually bring their most polished and ambitious scores when they are invited to play at Carnegie Hall. Not Charles Mingus. He organized the loosest, most free-wheeling jam on the simplest changes for his January 1974 concert, and I'm confident no one demanded their money back after the show.

When the back room cutting contests are translated to the concert hall, they usually come across as hollow and staged, lacking the spontaneity that is essential to these kinds of performances. But not on this track, which ranks among the finest recorded jam sessions in the jazz annals. Handy starts out hot, and sets the bar high for the following soloists with a 15-chorus excursion over blues changes. Hamiet Bluiett takes a few steps outside the changes, but George Adams makes the plunge with an ear-scorcher of a solo that is a panzer attack on the authority of the tonal center. You may think that there is nowhere else to go at this point, but then Rahsaan Roland Kirk steals the show by dipping into Adams' own bag and playing it better than Adams himself. And that is just the appetizer for a whirlwind solo of heroic proportions. . .

If you had any doubt that this was a real cutting contest, the blood on the reeds should dispel any doubts. Rahsaan was notorious for these kinds of in-your-face attacks. Two years before this concert, he had pulled off a similar stunt at a Radio City Music Hall event amidst a high profile cast that included Dexter Gordon and Zoot Sims. "Rahsaan could be competitive," Steve Turre has commented. "Don't mess with him at a jam session because he didn't play just one way. He could shift gears on you and take it in another direction. He could destroy people at a jam sessions if they tried to get competitive."

Faddis and McPherson try to pick up the pieces and bring some decorum back to the blues. But by the time you get to the end of this 24 minute track, all hell has broken loose. C Jam Blues is done broke and don't wanna to go back to the key of C no more. Yet I'm sure the composer, who always brought his big scores to this hall, would have been on his feet screaming and clapping along with everyone else.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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