Track Selection: Solo Dancer: Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whiney!
Rolf Ericson, Richard Williams (tp) Quentin Jackson (tb) Don Butterfield (cbtb, tu) Jerome Richardson (fl, ss, bars) Dick Hafer (fl, ts) Charlie Mariano (as) Jaki Byard (p) Jay Berliner (g) Charles Mingus (b, p) Dannie Richmond (d) recorded NYC, January 20, 1963
Mingus’s crowning achievement, his full-blooded reincarnation as the contemporary Ellington in this fully structured jazz orchestral work. Mingus as composer, arranger, group leader and most important, creative artist. Individual improvisation – the cornerstone of modern jazz – is subsumed by structured group improvisation, in one continuous piece.The work sparkles with undiminished brilliance fifty years on.
Vinyl: HMV CLP 1694 Original UK release of US Impulse A35
Mono, UK first pressing by EMI, Hayes 1963, small Nipper on the HMV label. Excellent mastering and pressing, rich dynamic range does justice to the full production. Not to be confused with later reissues by ABC Impulse, which are sonically very weak.
The liner notes by Charles Fox are a must-read, providing an incisive insight into how and why Mingus’s music works, and includes brief explanation of artistic intent by Mingus’s psychiatrist, named as one Dr Edmund Pollock. How very New York, to have your own shrink, and then boast about it on your records. Even at this stage in his career the record company still billed Mingus as “Charlie”. It may have been Charlie Parker, but it’s Charles Mingus. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to get the nuance.
The cover is yet another blow for the public health Campaign Against People Smoking on Record Covers, and it’s sister group, the Campaign Against Wearing Unsuitable Hats on Record Covers. Mingus’s very “beat” pipe and astrokan show us this truly majestic “cat with a hat”.
A great sounding inexpensive vinyl musical treat. Not perhaps for the testosterone-fuelled I-must-have-it collector, to whom the latest hype – not even RARE! but SUPER RARE! – has them reaching for the phone to increase their credit card limit. This record isn’t “super rare”, it is just very good music. It is pressed beautifully and offers a great musical experience – pure Mingus, direct into the veins. And it didn’t cost much for an original. Well, not much for a UK original. About £15.
This is the thing. With records, price is an imperfect proxy for music quality. Record prices are driven by scarcity.The reason some records are scarce is because not many people at the time bought them. There are a lot of reasons why that might be so, not all of them good ones. Just because a record is super rare and expensive doesn’t mean it’s any good. The secret is to find good music, however little or however much it costs.
And this is the other thing. For music to be “good”, its goodness first has to be appreciated. It’s about what you bring to the party. Like they say, money can buy you a bed, it can’t buy you a good nights sleep.