Track Selection: “Reincarnation of a Lovebird”:
Jimmy Knepper (tb) Shafi Hadi (ts) Wade Legge (p) Charles Mingus (b) Dannie Richmond (d) Jean Shepherd (nar) Audio-Video Studios, NYC, February 12, 1957 and NYC, March 13, 1957
Originally issued in 1957 as Atlantic 1260, Mingus’s “The Clown” features a twelve and a half minute improvised narration by Jean Shepherd accompanied by Mingus’s interpretation of comic circus music. Whatever it’s artistic merit, Atlantic UK must have thought this lacked commercial appeal, and issued the album under the alternative title “Reincarnation of a Lovebird” for this UK release, around 1970 . Mono, Plum and Orange Atlantic labels (black fan) on thick heavy vinyl, manufactured in GB by Polydor, it sounds as it should: great!
The record is packed with great music. In “Reincarnation of a Lovebird” Mingus pays hommage to Charlie Parker, featuring a quite beautiful tenor solo by Curtis Porter with a fine segue from Jimmy Knepper on trombone. Porter was one of many black musicians at that time who adopted a muslim name, “Shafi Hadi”. He was a frequent Mingus contributor – and a fine discovery for me. Other tracks are all Mingus classics, like “Haitian Fight Song” make it a worthy addition to the Mingus collection.
As an aside, I read somewhere that in America of the Nineteen Fifties, the adoption of Muslim names by black musicians was not so much a question of religious fervour, as a work-around of segregation, whereby in segregated public areas muslims were accorded “white” status. I have no idea whether this was true, but it makes a good story.
The sleeve design is credited to “Diogenic Attempts”, whose choice of hippy red font dates it squarely around the time of Iron Butterfly’s “In a Gadda Da Vida”. Which may be a good or a bad thing, according to taste.
The Ebay seller happened to live only a couple of train stops from me, so I collected it from his home, saving a few pounds postage and a few days wait for postie. A good day for the LondonJazzCollector, not a good day for The Royal Mail.