Charles Mingus: Mingus 

The bassist's 1960 session included Ted Curson, Booker Ervin and Eric Dolphy, the latter outstanding on bass clarinet


Most of Mingus was recorded during the same New York City session in 20 October 1960 that produced Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (Candid, 1960). So again, on the first two tracks Mingus employs the same shtick he utilised on Presents by introducing the band members and numbers with the same humour and panache he evinced when addressing a live audience. These announcements were his device for getting the band members into the spirit of a live gig but whilst recording in a studio setting. Certainly, judging by the often-frenetic quality of the music his ruse paid off.

MDM (Monk, Duke and Me) is the centrepiece here and at just a fraction under 20 minutes it shows the band on spectacularly fine form, Eric Dolphy especially shining on bass clarinet. After a classic walking bass intro the piece kicks off with quotes from Ellington’s Main Stem and Monk’s Straight No Chaser.

According to Nat Hentoff’s comprehensive sleeve notes the composition also included Mingus’s Fifty-First Street Blues but such is the intricate and often subtle interweaving of themes it is hard to detect. In Mingus, A Critical Biography, author Brian Priestley actually avers that “there is no audible reference” to Mingus’s earlier number. Despite the length of the track, MDM never palls but continues to swing throughout with all participants contributing energetically and enthusiastically.

Stormy Weather is given a respectful lengthy reading, prefaced once more with Mingus’s spoken announcement. It features Dolphy on plaintive alto meticulously countered by Mingus’s resonant bass lines, gradually joined by Ted Curson and Dannie Richmond. Halfway through, Mingus renders a sensitive, virtuosic pizzicato solo. The final number, an appropriately wild Lock ’Em Up, originally titled Hellevue Of Bellevue, refers to the time when Mingus naively turned up at the notorious psychiatric hospital in the hope of getting some counselling. He was promptly incarcerated but thankfully his friends managed to secure his release soon after.

(1) MDM; (2) Stormy Weather; (3) Lock ’Em Up (39.52)
On all tracks: Mingus (b); Ted Curson (t); Eric Dolphy (as, bcl); Dannie Richmond (d).
(1) add: Lonnie Hillyer (t); Jimmy Knepper, Britt Woodman (tb); Charles McPherson (as); Booker Ervin (ts); Nico Bunick (p).
(2) Mingus (b); Ted Curson (t); Eric Dolphy (as, bcl); Dannie Richmond (d).
(3) as (1) add: Paul Bley (p); out: Bunick, Knepper, Woodman.
(1 & 2) New York, 20 October 1960, (3) New York, 11 November 1960.
Candid Records CCD35212