Charles Mingus: Celia

Celia Zaentz was the second wife of Charles Mingus and co-founder, with her husband and Max Roach, of Debut Records, a pioneering artist-run independent label. Those are the facts; now onto the impressions: this lyrical portrait has a magical economy. Within half a minute, the listener is completely transported. Evans, who would join Miles Davis’ sextet less than a year later, plays the role of conjurer. He opens the tune with an almost generic swing riff. It sounds familiar, half-remembered, triggering nostalgia. Then he interrupts himself—or deepens the reverie—with shimmering chords that extend the measure, out of time, signaling the dreamy main theme for alto, trumpet and trombone.

October 22, 2007 · 0 comments

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Charles Mingus: Eulogy for Rudy Williams

A tribute to the late saxophonist of the Savoy Sultans, drowned shortly before the session in a summer swimming accident, “Eulogy for Rudy Williams” is an atmospheric masterpiece. The structure balances looseness and control; it’s a pleasure to hear new thematic material emerge mid-performance. LaPorta and Macero’s high-register harmonies contribute a haunting clarinet-like effect, arcing in hazy backgrounds for the leader’s featured playing. Barrow’s insistent accompaniment to the bass solos prefigures the inexorable opening strain of “Pithecanthropus Erectus,” a landmark Mingus composition recorded 15 months later.

October 22, 2007 · 0 comments

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Charles Mingus: Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk

Mingus worked the devil out of this complicated TV-score remnant during his 1964 tour of Europe. There must be a dozen or so versions under Mingus’ name, and this take from a Parisian concert is one of the best. Jaki Byard’s lush piano takes the lead, while Jordan and Dolphy alternate between swagger and swoon. ‘Orange’ is one of Mingus’ most enduring multidimensional works, and the bassist clearly enjoys his extended solo feature. Dolphy’s bass clarinet solo is all over the place, free as a bird. An absolute masterwork, dulled just a bit by the live-bootleg sound quality.

October 22, 2007 · 0 comments

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