23rd December, 1955 – one hell of a way to get psyched up for Christmas – Mingus recorded at Cafe Bohemia, New York. The line up was players of the time – George Barrow on tenor , Eddie Bert on trombone, both new to me, but also Mal Waldron on piano and Max Roach, drums. It’s as much Waldron’s record as Mingus. Released on the French “America” label, there is probably a US release of the same session, but when this popped up I was intrigued. Not a familiar item from Mingus extensive catalogue, and early Mingus rather than late Mingus.
If anything this curio is a warm up for Mingus iconic masterpiece Pithcanthropus Erectus. Many of the same phrases and changes in pace pop up on “Chazz”. The recording is bright and compelling. It is so different from mainstream Bop of 1955, you have to stop to realise the different direction Mingus was signalling: fleeting Duke Ellington big-band structure bound up with small group improvisational freedom, a unique confection of sweet and sour, always muscular and driven by Mingus’s fearsome conviction and intensity.
The opening track “Jump Monk” tells you all you need to know about the adventure ahead:
The French “America” label originally released on Fantasy Debut. Pretty decent sounding record, as long as you ignore the strong whiff of garlic on these French pressings. The America logo looks like a gallic take on a
Red Indian Native American head dress, which seems a little ethnically-off key for music by Afro-Americans not prone to attacking circled wagons on horseback. John Wayne on Tenor, Hoss Cartwright on bass?