2022 marks the centenary of Charles Mingus’s birth and there really should be more fuss made about this anniversary. Mingus was an under-appreciated genius but thankfully there are many recorded testaments to his unalloyed talents.
Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus is one such example, but it’s an exceptionally good one. The curious element here is that Mingus wanted to capture the adrenaline rush of a live session with the sharp focus of a studio session. Thus he introduced the tunes as though to a live audience, including pleas to keep the noise down whilst they were playing.
The result of this studio-not-live recording was a resounding success. The clarity, dynamism and energy are present in abundance. On Folk Forms No. 1 Mingus opens the number, his chunky bass laying down a bluesy groove. Ted Curson’s trumpet is almost fluorescent in its bendy-note brightness. Eric Dolphy on alto is equally coruscating, the two front-line musicians sparring in spritely repartee. Mingus’s solo here is typically vital and masterly.
Curson’s powerful solo on Mingus’s political diatribe Fables Of Faubus poignantly inserts a brief quote from the traditional spiritual Wade In The Water. Mingus’s sung and shouted lyrics are imbued with necessary invective towards his nemesis.
In a lengthy conversational passage on What Love, Dolphy replies to Mingus’s bass line by speak-singing through the mouthpiece of his bass clarinet, almost kazoo-like. This dialogue illustrates the symbiotic relationship between these two protagonists. The angularity of All The Things is redolent of Ornette Coleman’s quartet but there’s an unmistakable warmth to Mingus’s group that always pervades his compositions.
Released on vinyl, CD and as a download, this reissue is remastered from the original tapes and the result is spectacular, both technically and musically. The huge sound that Mingus evinces from his stripped-down Jazz Workshop is more than impressive and this surely must rank as one of Mingus’s best recordings live or otherwise.
Folk Forms No. 1; Original Faubus Fables; What Love; All The Things You Could Be Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother (46.02)
Mingus (b); Ted Curson (t); Eric Dolphy (as, bcl); Dannie Richmond (d). New York, 20 October 1960.
Candid Records 30051 (vinyl) & 30052 (CD)