Charles Mingus: The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s

Three CDs of previously unreleased material, recorded at Ronnie Scott's in 1972 but shelved when Columbia dropped jazz aside from Miles Davis

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This triple-CD set of previously unreleased live material by the Charles Mingus sextet was the result of an engagement at Ronnie Scott’s where two days of sessions were professionally recorded on eight-track tape using a mobile recording truck presumed to be supplied by British CBS. However, the resulting music went unreleased because Mingus along with every other major jazz musician on the Columbia roster was dropped by the company with the notable exception of Miles Davis.

In her biography Tonight At Noon: A Love Story, Sue Mingus recalls receiving the tapes, but they have remained in the Mingus vault until now. These sessions were recorded at a time when Mingus was receiving considerably revitalised interest in his work following periods of inactivity and depression.

Apart from these sessions being historically valuable and musically gripping, there is also the added interest in the contributing personnel. Mingus’s long-time drummer Dannie Richmond, who had joined jazz-rock group Mark-Almond, was replaced by the highly impressive Roy Brooks. Jaki Byard’s role was now fulfilled by the relatively unknown John Foster, who also proved a more than capable vocalist. The horns consisted of tenorist Bobby Jones and altoist Charles McPherson. Jon Faddis, despite his relative youthfulness, at just 19 years of age, provided scorching trumpet throughout, having already paid his dues in Lionel Hampton’s big band.

Following his convincing vocals on Noddin’ Ya Head Blues, drummer Roy Brooks takes a (weird-ish) solo on musical saw – perhaps the novelty precursor to Rufus Harley’s bagpipes excursion during Sonny Rollins’ appearance at Ronnie’s in 1974? The main number on the much shorter CD2, weighing in at only 30 minutes, is Mind-Readers’ Convention In Milano, sporting a blistering drum solo by Brooks. The CD concludes with a 45-second rendition of the theme to Charlie Parker’s Ko Ko.

During his serpentine bass solo on the 35-minute version of Fables Of Fabus, Mingus manages to insert a series of quotes including snatches of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Anchors Aweigh and Star Spangled Banner, much to the audible amusement of the audience. Pops, a frenetic version of When The Saints Go Marching In, opens with Foster’s brief vocal impression of Satchmo, to whom the number is dedicated, and continues in a rousing Dixieland style. Jon Faddis explores his trumpet’s highest register with Bobby Jones here deployed on clarinet.

Mingus turns in a solo – minus quotes – on The Man Who Never Sleeps, clearly re-emphasising his brilliance as a bass player. The set concludes with a coruscating two-minute version of Benny Goodman’s Air Mail Special and Mingus thanking the audience for supplying their “claps” to the recording.

This set thankfully restores a missing but valuable chunk of Mingus’s recorded oeuvre and the music is of such a consistently high standard that fans will be hugely gratified that these excellently recorded sessions are now available to hear and of course will remain for posterity. Mention must also be made of the superb accompanying 60-page illustrated booklet with notes by Mingus biographer Brian Priestley including the interview he conducted between sets with Mingus and McPherson during the Scott residency.

Discography
CD1: Introduction; 2. Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues; Noddin’ Ya Head Blues (51.41)
CD2: Mind-Readers’ Convention In Milano (aka Number 29); Ko Ko (Theme) (30.44)
CD3: Fables Of Faubus; Pops (aka When The Saints Go Marching In); The Man Who Never Sleeps; Air Mail Special (63.15)
Mingus (b); Charles McPherson (as); Bobby Jones (ts, cl); Jon Faddis (t); John Foster (p, v); Roy Brooks (d, musical saw). London, 14-15 August 1972.
Resonance Records HCD-2063