Bye bye “Clown”, hello “Lovebird”



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.

Facsimile original liner notes, Recording Engineer Tom Dowd, Production oversight Nesuhi Ertegun.

2 thoughts on “Bye bye “Clown”, hello “Lovebird”

  1. Looks luscious and very well looked after. Since you actually visited the seller, did you ask him if he maybe had more gems in his house or did you just pick up the record and leave? Who knows he had a truck load of top items shelved! About that muslim name issue: I never heard of it before, maybe it’s true. But then still: world famous drummer Leo Morris changed his name to Idris Muhammad at one point, but he also converted to that religion and made it perfectly clear wearing his jelaba all the time and growing his beard… I mean, the cover of his Power of Soul album says it all:

    I also once read a ridiculous discussion somewhere about the “silent hint” of the photo from Idris on the inside of the CD release of Power of Soul, in which he poses with the WTC in the background:

    A bit off topic, but worth noting I thought 😉



    • I checked the sellers other items before I left home, but it was the usual “British 60’s rock and pop” stuff which is the bread and butter of the pre-owned vinyl market – Beatles, Led Zepplin, usual stuff. It was his only jazz record. Guy behind the counter in my favourite London store once told me “If the demand for (vinyl) Rock and Pop ever dries up, we are all out of a job!” Jazz is just a niche to them.
      Most of my recent UK eBay sellers with great jazz offerings seem to have dried up. I think they buy one collection, or it’s their dads, and when its gone, its gone. Their current listings revert to rock and pop, or nothing. Useful reminder that jazz collectors are a small community. When they finally drop the needle for the last time, their collections get recycled. Which is good for the rest of us.
      Thanks for the link. Idris Muhhamad posing in front of the World Trade Centre in 1974? That’s spooky but perhaps chosen just because it’s one of the most recognisable features of the NY skyline.(original text snipped)

      (Retrospective action, comment here removed – House Rules introduced subsequently prohibit political racial or religiously motivated commentary on this site. And that applies to me too).

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