Track Selection: “Theme for Lester Young” (Goodbye Pork Pie Hat) tenor solo: Booker Ervin –
Eddie Preston, Richard Williams (tp) Britt Woodman (tb) Don Butterfield (tu) Dick Hafer (fl, cl, ts) Jerome Richardson (fl, ss, bars) Eric Dolphy (as, fl) Booker Ervin (ts) Jaki Byard (p) Charles Mingus (b, nar) Walter Perkins (d) recorded NYC, September 20, 1963
Originating from the same recording sessions as “Black Sinner Black Saint”
It’s taken me a long time for me to “get” Mingus. I asked someone “knowledeable” in a record store, “what’s Mingus about?”
“He’s a very major figure” .
Um, Yes. But why? “
Um, you don’t get that major without…being…um… significant”.
I recognise that the ability to appreciate jazz is not the same as being able to articulate your appreciation to others. I tried another tack – reading. “Mingus is the musical son of Ellington”. Oh dear. I don’t like Ellington, not the Big Band stuff from the Forties, Count Basie, not for me.
I gave up on the knowledge route, and just bought some stuff, and listened to it. And I loved it. The more I listened, the more I loved it. He constantly creates original work. Different musicians,trio, sextet, big band, every permutation, restlessly “making new sound”, combining composing and improvising, structure and freedom. By all accounts a difficult man, not likeable, not your happy-go-lucky heroin-injecting shooting star, but someone who considered themselves an artist, with a political standpoint, demanded respect. He’s Charles, not Charlie.
He also disliked record companies for trying to constrain what he wanted to do, changing labels constantly, even starting his own label (which quickly failed). Clearly to his mind, the job of record companies was to sell what he wanted to make, and not make what people wanted to buy. A principled artist.
Vinyl (origially released as Impulse A54)
The matrix identifies the origin of pressing as “A54″ – the Impulse”! catalogue number. These British HMV1960’s pressings sound gorgeous. Rich deep dynamic range, very satisfying listen. Anyone still wondering why I go on about “pressings” – a record is a record isn’t it? Sadly, no. Does all soup taste the same?
This last week I found three copies of “Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus” up for auction. Two UK HMV originals from 1964, and a 1970 ABC-Impulse US reissue from a UK seller. I passed on the American press – dull lifeless pressings, guaranteed to put you off the music for life, horrid.
The first UK HMV was pronounced in “Excellent” condition, which unfortunately upped the ante and I found myself out-sniped on a very generous bid. We all want “excellent” don’t we? Leaving copy number two in play. Graded as only “VG” from a seller in Brighton who graded all his items either “Very Good” or “Excellent”. Push the button and hope, and for £15 it was mine for half the price of the earlier copy. It cleaned up beautifully on the RCM, a few odd pops left, nothing major. A good outcome in the face of many uncertainties.
Goes to show, grading is only loosely correlated with what you actually get, which is often down to the luck of the draw. Did the previous owners look after it, or not? Often you don’t find out until it is mounted on your turntable.