Denis Gäbel: The Mingus Sessions

The tenor saxophonist and his trio mark the 100th anniversary of Mingus’s birth, with contributions from nine guest artists

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Charles Mingus is a hot topic this year. April 29 marked the 100-year anniversary of the bassist and composer’s birth. On the same date, Resonance Records launched The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s. Mingus’ meaty chops adorn glossy magazine covers and celebratory concerts keep his music alive, 43 years after the man died. But is there anything left to say about Mingus in 2022?

Denis Gäbel thinks so. The tenor saxophonist has recorded Mingus tracks with his familiar trio of Robert Landfermann on bass and Leif Berger on drums. They also invited nine guests to join the fun. The album reflects the strength of Mingus’s compositions with its solid trio foundation, while the visitors add sharp corners to unleash the spirit of their ghostly centenarian muse.

Fables Of Faubus showcases the silky coolness beneath the surface of Gäbel’s versatile playing. The band welcomes Loren Stillman on alto saxophone and the two horns swagger side-by-side. It’s a characteristic Mingus piece, with slippery rhythmic shifts and wide-open spaces for overlapping solos.

Trombonist Shannon Barnett appears on Remember Rockefeller At Attica. It’s a swinging number with tight melodic corkscrews, and the improvisers spiral in and out of focus on each cycle of chords. Barnett plays a hooping and happy solo, nudged along by fine-touch accents from the drums.

A second drummer, Hendrik Soll, rearranges the sonic furniture on Prayer For Passive Resistance. The instrumentation gives the track a play-fighting physicality. Gäbel sprinkles reedier notes alongside his typically full-bodied tone.

The Mingus Sessions slides fascinating filters onto the spotlights shining on Mingus in 2022. Denis Gäbel is an unhurried improviser with a sneaky capacity to switch from best friend to brute and back again. This album shows that there is still plenty to say about Mingus – and plenty to play about too.

Discography
Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress; Jump Monk; Fables Of Faubus; Work Song; Open Letter To Duke; Eclipse; Prayer For Passive Resistance; Remember Rockefeller At Attica; My Jelly Roll Soul; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (62.00)
Axel Schlosser (t); Shannon Barnett (tb); Loren Stillman (as); Gäbel, Sebastian Gille (ts); Simon Seidl (p); Norbert Scholly (g); Robert Landfermann, Christian Ramond (b); Leif Berger, Hendrik Soll (d); Laura Totenhagen (v). Cologne, Germany 2022.
Mons Records MR874750