Thursday, September 17, 2009

Charles Mingus: Live Enigma

Charles Mingus
(bass, b.1922 - d. 1979)

Continuing our discussion this week on Charles Mingus I wanted to present to you my favourite Mingus live recordings.

Live At Antibes Jazz Festival (Atlantic, 1960) is a fantastic example of Mingus' versatility as he performs on both bass and piano. Antibes is a live performance in which all musicians; Mingus (bass, piano), Eric Dolphy (alto sax), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Ted Curson (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums) work in true simpatico.

The Antibes gig came just a few months after Charles Mingus left Columbia Records and had his two final recordings Ah Um and Dynasty were released for the label in '59.

The album feels like a precursor to the avant garde movement but also maintains a structure in which the uninitiated will definitely enjoy. The performances from Dolphy and Ervin are definite standouts.

This was an album that had remained unreleased for years until after Mingus' death in 1979. It had been one of those highly talked about shows that you wished you were there. With its emergence on CD back in the '90s, history now has a marker. Once you've listened to Ah Um this is great record to check out immediately afterward.

The Great Concert Of Charles Mingus (aka The Great Concert, Paris April 1964) (Atlantic Records)is my second favourite. This was significant for multiple reasons. First, this was a grueling European tour which took its toll on the band especially trumpeter Johnny Coles who collapsed from an ulcer during rehearsals. Second, this would be the last performance for the great saxophonist Eric Dolphy with the Mingus band (he would pass away two months later). Dolphy's presence in the group gave the band a large degree of its "free form" distinction and complimented Mingus' arrangements perfectly.

The show itself encapsulates all the elements Mingus had worked on since Ah Um and the previous four years to a wonderful conclusion despite the harsh difficulties of the reality around him and the band. The relationship with Clifford Jordon (trumpet) and Eric Dolphy during the gig is amazing and well worth turning up the volume up on the stereo.

This is one of those concerts that lives up to every expectation and more. The audience is very attentive and aware of all the nuances and provides the extra impetus for the band as it blisters its way through what would become a great but legendary concert indeed.

Below is footage from a performance in Oslo just a few days before The Great Concert set.

1 comment:

  1. Antibes is great. Its version of "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" positively rips.