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.
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.