Charles Mingus “East Coasting” (1957)

Track Selection: West Coast Ghost

(My thanks to Felix Strange for helping choose my first post back after Easter. I had forgotten how good this record is) 🙂


Clarence Shaw (tp) Jimmy Knepper (tb) Curtis Porter (as, ts) Bill Evans (p) Charles Mingus (b) Dannie Richmond (d) recorded NYC, August, 1957

Piano – Bill Evans!!


Superb vintage Mingus from 1957, spacious individual improvisations within a strong composed formal structure, shifting gear up and back, all draped in the Duke Ellington mantle, but fiercely iconoclastic  Mingus. Familiar themes that work their way through to Pithycanthopus Erectus, The Clown,  and other works around this period of Mingus development. Delightful individual solos from Evans, Porter, Shaw and Knepper, you are spoiled. It’s  Mingus as leader and composer, always the ringmaster, not just one of the lions and tigers.

Foolishly, it took me a long time to “get” Mingus.  I though he was just about listening to a bass player. Shows how guesswork and assumptions are false friends. You have to go listen to everything, and then decide. Even then, first impressions are themselves not everything.

Vinyl: UK 1st Release, on Parlophone PMC 1092 of US Bethlehem BCP 6019

Matrix code style machine stamp with “1N” suggestive of Decca UK mastering and pressing of the Bethlehem recording. However the Parlophone label belonged to EMI, who had their own pressing plant. Couple of interesting other hallmarks. The runout  at 9 o’clock has the stamper number “1” in very small type) both sides, confirming this copy belongs to the first pressing run, and the unusual presence of letters “ET” straddling the spindle hole side of Side 2, which mean nothing to me other than advice to any alien visitor to “phone home”

Mingus is scowling at the photographer on the cover. Either his feet were getting wet and the shoot taking too long, or perhaps he coud see his name on the cover as “Charlie”, which he came to insist should be “Charles”. Its Charles Mingus, not Charlie.

Collector’s Corner

Fiercely fought over eBay auction last year. Not only extremely rare original 1st UK pressing, a classic early Mingus album, but the presence of Bill Evans on piano got a handful of knowledgeable collectors salivating. Once again, US licensing of overseas releases means few if any Bethlehem originals would have found their way to the UK. 1957 was also a very early year in the spread of the ownership of record players,  and UK pressing volume would have been small, perhaps numbered only in a few thousands. Very pleasing to have an original vinyl.

26 thoughts on “Charles Mingus “East Coasting” (1957)

  1. 1957 was also a very early year in the spread of the ownership of record players, and UK pressing volume would have been small, perhaps numbered only in a few thousands.

    This was not released in 1957, but as late as July 1959. If this had got a British release in 1957, it would have been on London, which had the rights to the Bethlehem catalogue at the time. Mingus’s other Bethlehem LP Jazz Experiments did come out on London LTZ-N 15087 in 1957, but this one never did.

    Bethlehem was inactive through most of 1958 due to financial difficulties, and only revived after it entered into a partnership with King Records (which finally took it over completely in 1962). As a result the London deal became void, and the British rights to Bethlehem moved to Parlophone as part of their long-term deal with King that ran from 1953 to 1962. This resulted in a burst of LPs from Bethlehem that were already 2 to 5 years old at the time:

    PMC 1082 Chris Connor: Lullabys of Birdland (3/59) = BCP-6004 (11/56)
    PMC 1083 Sallie Blair: Squeeze Me (5/59) = BCP-6009 (6/57)
    PMC 1084 Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers: Hard Drive (3/59) = BCP-6023 (11/57)
    PMC 1086 Stan Levey: This Time the Drum’s on Me (4/59) = BCP-37 (1/56)
    PMC 1087 Sam Most Plays Bird, Bud, Monk and Miles (4/59) = BCP-75 (10/57)
    PMC 1089 Frances Faye Sings Folk Songs (6/59) = BCP-6017 (4/57)
    PMC 1090 Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette: The Chase Is On (5/59) = BCP-6021 (10/57)
    PMC 1092 Charlie Mingus: East Coasting (7/59) = BCP-6019 (10/57)
    PMC 1093 Hal McKusick Quartet (7/59) = BCP-16 (5/55)
    PMC 1094 Charlie Mariano Plays (8/59) = BCP-49 (4/56)
    PMC 1095 Various: Winner’s Circle (8/59) = BCP-6024 (1/58)
    PMC 1096 Mel Tormé at the Crescendo (9/59) = BCP-6020 (10/57)
    PMC 1099 Art Blakey’s Big Band (9/59) = BCP-6027 (8/58)
    PMC 1116 Duke Ellington: Historically Speaking (3/60) = BCP-60 (6/56)
    PMC 1136 Duke Ellington Presents (5/61) = BCP-6005 (11/56)
    PMC 1137 Mel Tormé’s California Suite (6/61) = BCP-6016 (5/57)
    PMC 1138 Kai Winding & J. J. Johnson: Slide Rule (6/61) = BCP-13 (5/55)
    PMC 1139 Various: Triple Treat (6/61) = BCP-6006 (11/56)

    Apart from a few that had been on London, this was the first British release for these.

    • In post headings I refer to the date of recording, in this case is 1957, not the date of issue of this particular edition, which is some time after, exactly when I gave little thought. 1959 certainly sounds right, from what you say. Thank you for the correction..

      • He wasn’t referring to the “post headings” – he was referring to the passage of yours that he quoted when you drew conclusions about the “pressing” implying [b]”UK pressing volume being small”[/b] [i]in 1957.[/i]

  2. Are there “suitable” alternatives to an original? Specifically wondering about Pure Pleasure’s reissue or a ’70s CBS/Sony Japanese pressing. Any inkling?

  3. Underrated Mingus, every household should have one. My copy is a cheap 1982 reissue on Affinity, surprisingly it sounds very good so i feel no need to upgrade.
    BTW i live about 50km from Bethlehem, if thats saying anything

    • Tell me the name of the guy, who underrated this one – we’ll get him some comfortable concrete shoes and show him river Thames from it’s bilge.

      I just bought the stereo version of this gem (US Bethlehem, first release in 1959, year by BSN) and I listenerd to a superb recording, much better than most of what RVG did in stereo at that time. Is there anybody (going to listen…), knowing who recorded that prescious moment of jazz?

  4. Late to the party as ever, I can just add what I know about little bits of label stuff. The N of the 1N in the run out groove does mean it is an EMI or HMV pressing. the ET which I am presuming is feelable either side of the spindle hole is the tax code. Too lazy to check but Beatles websites will confirm the KT on their Parlophone labels gives a first year, and I am betting this will be 1958.

    • Mark, good of you to show up at the party – two years late. You have brought a bottle? Just kidding. Yes. I now know the stuff about purchase tax codes now which I didn’t two years ago. Also the trademark EMI matrix code. It is always helpful to be reminded how far we have come on this journey. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. I’m just playing side two of my Get Back reissue — sometimes, needs must. I have always thought this is an under-rated Mingus record. CELIA is gorgeous — that mysterious piano arpeggio (does that mean what I think it does?) that seems to demarcate each of the improvised sections makes the hairpin the back of my neck stand up…

    • Alun, you can always tame that “hair standing up on the back of your neck” feeling with Studio Line Extra-Hold gel. I swear by it – keep’s my mohican well sharp. I’m not knocking reissues – I picked up several this week, as there is sometimes a very pleasant surprise in among them.

  6. Mine of interesting information as always. I often wondered what happened to Shafi Hadi, who I thought had a fine tenor voice.
    Mingus/ Evans eh? Live at the Village Vanguard would have turned out very different, all those diners chattering in the background, getting thumped .
    Thanks for the input!

  7. I’m glad to see others appreciate this LP. It’s a bit of an odd one. Jimmy Knepper was, I believe, a bigger name than Mingus at the time (and Bill Evans) for that matter. Trombone players just can’t seem to garner respect these days like they could in the halcyon days of Jay and Kai.

    As mentioned in the liner notes, Bill Evans was largely sight reading the scores for this session. Given the complexity of many of the tunes, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Unfortunately, it leaves him little time to show off his considerable talents and we only get a glimpse of what a Mingus/Evans musical collaboration might have yielded.

    Despite that, I find that the quality of Mingus’ tunes makes the album worth listening to (especially ‘Celia’ and ‘West Coast Ghost’). Even though there’s never really a true cohesiveness between the horns, the each manage to bring out moments of beauty in Mingus’ compositions.

    I think the quality of the recording is also surprisingly good. The only real flaw being the rather muffled bass and drums which sound like they were recorded with the same mic (one that was not very well placed). This is one of the few LPs of which I own the mono and the stereo and it seems to me that the stereo mix is clearly the better sounding (surprise!).

    Another interesting (and disturbing) bit of trivia is that apparently a falling out with Mingus eventually drove Curtis Porter to give up music entirely, which is a shame. Mingus was not always the most affable person, to say the least. If you like free association and soft core pulp pornography, I highly recommend “Triumph of the Underdog”. After reading it you will either understand more or less about Charles Mingus. It certainly contains some amusing jazz anecdotes, true or not.

    As for his music, I am a firm believer that Mingus rightfully deserves to be held in the same esteem as Miles, Monk, et cetera. Like Mingus’ personality, his music results ran the spectrum. He certainly was trying to create a music that was different his contemporaries, and when he was successful he produced some of the most exciting moments in American music and some of the most memorable melodies.

  8. Spot on about assumptions and guesswork. I made a similar error regarding Eric Dolphy until I took a punt on Out to Lunch. Growing a goatee now! Equally, I made assumptions about a lot of British Jazz, then I found the tread that connects Charlie Parker to Iain Ballamy via Ronnie, Tubby and Stan. Some great Fontana recordings out there – don’t mis out!

  9. At first glance at that cover it looks like he’s carrying the bass, but I don’t think he is, is he? the posture is too relaxed, and the instrument does appear to be propped up on something.

    Very nice track.

    • The bass must be propped up, but there’s something else that I noticed after I clicked on the cover for extra large and zoomed in on Charles’ face: his eyebrows and moustache seem to have been drawn on to his face. Just look at the moustache! 😉

      Anyway, track and personnel are very enjoyable.

      • Well spotted Hawkeye. It looks to me like photgraphic enhancement at the darkroom stage. The crown of his hair, the moustach and beard are darker than the ambient light and relatively flat grey tonal range would produce naturally. Looks like a little extra depth has been added to the blacks by burning in.
        I used to have my own photographic darkroom in the Sixties, and it was manic, burning and dodging with little pieces of card on sticks in precious seconds of exposure under red light, while breathing chemicals listening to the clock tick. Ahh, the days before Photoshop, kids today wouldn’t believe it.

        • Indeed. I guess that kids nowadays have a whole different idea when they hear the word ‘dark room’ 😉 But your story sure sheds light on the enhanced goatee!

          It also reminds me of an old joke: a man walks into an appliance store and asks the owner if he sells broken light bulbs. Amazed by the question, the owner asks what he needs them for. The man replies: I’m going to build a dark room… 😀

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