Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Charles Mingus at Bremen

Charles Mingus at Bremen, 1964 & 1975. 4 CDs. Sunnyside. 2020.

Hope So Eric : Fables of Faubus : Piano Solo [A.T.F.W.] : Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington) : Parkeriana : Meditations on Integration

Charles Mingus, bass; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano; Dannie Richmond, drums. Recorded in concert, April 16, 1964, Bremen, Germany. Total time: 1:54:46.


Sue’s Changes : For Harry Carney (Sy Oliver) : Free Cell Block F, ’Tis Nazi USA : Black Bats And Poles (Walrath) : Fables of Faubus : Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love : Cherokee (Ray Noble) : Remember Rockefeller at Attica : Devil Blues (Mingus-Adams-Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown)

Charles Mingus, bass; Jack Walrath, trumpet; George Adams, tenor sax, vocals; Don Pullen, piano; Dannie Richmond, drums. Recorded in concert, July 9, 1975, Bremen, Germany. Total time: 1:59:32.

All compositions by Charles Mingus except as noted.

At one point, as I listened and made notes, I summarized: LIT! Both performances, all players, were and are lit, on fire and burning bright, in four hours of music that make most (so-called) jazz sound pedestrian and predictable by comparison. A few highlights:

“Hope So Eric”: Also known as “Praying with Eric” and “So Long Eric (Don’t Stay Over There Too Long).” A twelve-bar blues that has always sounded to me like great theme music for an early-’60s cop show. Dolphy plays with extreme abandon here. It’s still inconceivable to me that he would die just two and a half months later.

“Fables of Faubus”: The longest recording of this composition I’ve heard, with extended forays into bits of Americana: “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “You’re in the Army Now,” and others. Here again Dolphy is the final soloist, and his bass clarinet is torrential.

“Parkeriana”: A collage of themes by or played by Charlie Parker. But also: Johnny Coles spoofs Kind of Blue, and Jaki Byard breaks into stride piano on the changes of “I Got Rhythm.”

“Sue’s Changes”: A multi-themed composition depicting, Mingus said, the changing moods of his partner Sue Mingus. I think of the themes as an urbane promenade followed by a brisk walk followed by an increasingly frantic run. And repeat. Walrath is sharp and precise; Pullen, heady and swirling; Adams, expressionist but always in control.

“Fables of Faubus”: An almost cartoonish version of this mordant melody, complete with backbeat and a tremendously melodic solo from Dannie Richmond, with the horns pitching in. The segregationist Orval Faubus was then eight years out of office as the governor of Arkansas. The updated lyrics mention Gerald Ford.

“Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”: One of Mingus’s most beautiful melodies, with a strong touch of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and a great bass solo.

“Devil Blues”: And suddenly we’re listening to a blues band, one with an incredible bassist, and with Adams shouting lyrics by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. This tune was apparently put together to please the crowds at Max’s Kansas City, who wanted vocals. Sheesh.

The kicker: the concerts were an hour (1964) and half an hour (1975) longer than what we have here. Was the rest of the music lost? Or still unreleased?

Related reading
All OCA Mingus posts (Pinboard)

[“A.T.F.W.”: Art Tatum, Fats Waller.]

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