Jazz Artists Guild: Newport Rebels

Charles Mingus and Max Roach's alternative Newport, a 1960 reaction to the festival's commercialism, was taken into the studio later that year


Named after a group of musicians who protested against the increased commercialism of the Newport Jazz Festival and its lack of opportunities for younger players, the Newport Rebels held an alternative festival at nearby Cliff Walk Manor in July 1960. The participants included established figures and modernists, spanning several age groups and musical styles, put together by Charles Mingus and Max Roach.

A few months later, after forming the Jazz Artists Guild, they recorded this album in New York and although it was made in a studio, they replicated the feeling generated at Cliff Walk, with most of it improvised during the sessions and the musicians mixed stylistically.

The core quartet of Roy Eldridge with Tommy Flanagan, Jo Jones and Mingus play Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams and the blues, Me And You, Eldridge’s open horn growling then extending high, giving glimpses of his trademark uninhibited approach. Flanagan lays down fine blues piano on the latter.

Mingus associates Eric Dolphy and Jimmy Knepper join for Mysterious Blues, Eldridge tightly muted. According to writer Nat Hentoff’s liner note, Eldridge was “startled as Eric played into his solo”. He “kept nodding, his smile broadening”, as Dolphy went into overdrive. Vocalist Abbey Lincoln leads on Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness, which has a rare outing for Kenny Dorham as pianist. Dolphy and Benny Bailey thread their way behind Lincoln, the altoist making his horn talk.

Trumpeter Booker Little provides a sharply focused solo on his composition Cliff Walk, which has both Jones and Max Roach sharing the drum seats – Roach mainly assuming the lead, Jones the cymbal support at the start but taking the first extended drum solo. Brass riffs add to the urgency.

Although the Guild didn’t last, it showed the willingness of musicians to enter unfamiliar territory and pull down stylistic barriers, having more things in common than apart. A pity Ornette Coleman and Coleman Hawkins, also at Cliff Walk, couldn’t do the later session.

The CD reviewed here is indeed numbered 32132, but Candid’s publicist only sent the LP cover above, showing 32131.

(1) Mysterious Blues; (2) Cliff Walk; (3) Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; (4) Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do; (3) Me And You (38.56)
(1) Roy Eldridge (t); Jimmy Knepper (tb); Eric Dolphy (as); Tommy Flanagan (p); Charles Mingus (b); Jo Jones (d). NY, 11 November 1960.
(2) Booker Little (t); Julian Priester (tb); Walter Benton (ts); Peck Morrison (b); Max Roach, Jones (d). NY, 1 November 1960.
(3) Eldridge (t); Flanagan (p); Mingus (b); Jones (d). 11 November 1960.
(4) Abbey Lincoln (v); Benny Bailey (t); Dolphy (as); Kenny Dorham (p); Morrison (b); Jones (d). 1 November 1960.
Candid Records CAN32132