Charles Mingus: Complete 1960 Nat Hentoff Sessions

Well-presented and generously annotated three-CD set collects material from three albums from the bassist's peak period

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Theodor Adorno was an aesthete who attacked the bourgeois concept of a “feast for the ears”. But I have to say – bourgeois that I am – that this release is indeed such a feast. If 1959 was the annus mirabilis of modern jazz, 1960 wasn’t far behind. In that year, eminent critic Nat Hentoff asked Charles Mingus to record several sessions for the new Candid label, on which he offered him total freedom.

All the music from these sessions is included on this digitally remastered three-CD set – a summit of Mingus’s creativity, featuring such luminaries as Eric Dolphy, Roy Eldridge, Booker Ervin, Jimmy Knepper, Charles McPherson, Paul Bley, Jo Jones and Dannie Richmond.

The groundbreaking Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus takes up most of disc one. Recording in an empty studio, Mingus tried to give the impression of a live recording. The pianoless quartet features Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Ted Curson on trumpet and Dannie Richmond on drums. What Love – based on What Is This Thing Called Love? and You Don’t Know What Love Is – features intuitive interaction between Dolphy and Mingus. All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother is wittily but loosely based on All The Things You Are. The Original Faubus Fables is memorable political art.

Much of disc two was originally released as the Mingus LP, and features the long blues MDM (Monk, Duke & Mingus). Mingus here combines the music of his two heroes, but though it’s is an excellent blues, it’s not shaped by a distinctive compositional signature. The disc concludes with two “bonus tracks” from 1960 that don’t feature Mingus.

Disc three features sides from the Newport Rebels album. Mingus created the festival with others as an alternative to Newport Jazz Festival, which they felt was becoming too commercial. The album is notable for the role of Roy Eldridge and Jo Jones, who were swing era modernists. Even so, they must have been intrigued, to say the least, by working with Eric Dolphy. The album includes two superb takes of Body And Soul, and two of Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams. This is an unmissable and essential release, superbly produced with a very helpful and lengthy booklet.

Discography
CD1: Folk Forms No.1; Original Faubus Fables; What Love; All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother; Stormy Weather; Melody From The Drums (69.08)
CD2: Reincarnation Of A Lovebird No.1; Vasserlean; MDM; Bugs; Reincarnation Of A Lovebird No.2; Lock ’Em Up; Cliff Walk; T’ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do (74.29)
CD3: Mysterious Blues; Body And Soul; Body And Soul [alternate take]; R & R; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams [alternate take]; Me And You (63.00)
Roy Eldridge, Ted Curson, Lonnie Hillyer, Booker Little, Benny Bailey (t); Jimmy Knepper, Britt Woodman, Julian Priester (tb); Booker Ervin, Walter Benton (ts); Eric Dolphy (as, bcl, f); Charles McPherson (as); Tommy Flanagan, Paul Bley, Nico Bunick, Kenny Dorham (p); Mingus, Peck Morrison (b); Jo Jones, Dannie Richmond, Max Roach (d); Abbey Lincoln (v). New York, 20 October – 11 November 1960.
American Jazz Classics 99142