Mingus Jazz Portraits (Wonderland) 1959 WRC

Track Selection 1: Nostalgia in Times Square

If you like, sing along! “a woo woo, a woo woo, a diddly da, a diddly da, a diddly da a woo woo…” (reprise, change key)

Track selection 2: Alice’s Wonderland


John Handy (as) Booker Ervin (ts) Richard Wyands (p) Charles Mingus (b) Dannie Richmond (d) recorded live at Nonagon Art Gallery, NYC, January 16, 1959


In other people’s words: “Nostalgia In Times Square” attempts to portray the busy taxi-horn anarchic sound of New York’s centre. It has that unique distinctive harmony at the beginning between alto and tenor sax. As Handy moves through his first solo, it’s interesting to hear Mingus, with his assertive bass pattern, change the tempo two times. Keeping the same form, Mingus does it again while Ervin moves out with his solo. Then, after a lengthy bass excursion, Mingus exchanges fours with drummer Richmond. They bounce ideas off each other, Mingus quoting “Dixie” and “Camptown Races” and Richmond quoting Gene Krupa.

In the liner notes Nat Hentoff says “Nostalgia In Times Square” was written for the film “Shadows” produced by John Cassavetes, as was “Alice’s Wonderland,” which however was not used in the film; It was originally written for a love scene, and the sensitive approach used by Mingus for this one is quite unusual.

The music can be described as “advanced bop” that looks toward the upcoming innovations of the avant-garde.  It’s a chance to hear Mingus the bassist and Mingus the leader in action with a small group.”

Vinyl: World Record Club T663

UK release pressed by EMI, Hayes Middlesex, first released on United Artists UAJS 15005 “Bendy Tenor” label. Jazz portraits/Wonderland has been issued at various times in different covers, with resulting “identity crisis”

Starting on the left with the original UA “floating head” cover of the “bendy tenor” label,  through various cover art iterations and every possible permutation of title including the words Wonderland, Portraits, Jazz, and Mingus.

World Record Club Ltd

World Record Club issued a significant number of original releases in the UK, some not easily obtained any other way.  The home of the World Record Club was Richmond Green, the heart of the west London borough of Richmond upon Thames. For anyone not familiar with it, Richmond is a gritty urban jungle of high density low rent public housing projects and derelict factory lots, located just off the end of the third runway of London’s Heathrow airport.

LJC says: what better location from which to publish New York hard bop, finger-on the-pulse edgy Richmond Upon Thames. To misquote Douglas Adams “a place so hip it has difficulty seeing over it’s pelvis”. “A woo woo, a woo woo, a diddly da ” Great.

The Matrix

Pressing by EMI for World Record Club of Richmond on Thames., machine stamp following curvature of the record

Collectors Corner

As best I recall, this came from a shop in the London area, can’t for the life of me recall which, but I think it was a fiver. The seller clearly didn’t know what to make of the World Record Club. One rung above or below “Music For Pleasure”. Should have followed LondonJazzCollector.

15 thoughts on “Mingus Jazz Portraits (Wonderland) 1959 WRC

  1. The first issue of this album was on United Artiste UAL/UAS, 4000/5000 SERIES. Orange label for mono and Blue for stereo. The Grey label is a 1960’s reissue.

  2. In US there is a superb second pressing on UA’s Solid State..titled Wonderland. #SS 18019. Stereo. The Album (and Mingus sings!)

  3. I’m starting my morning’s listening with this on a 90s-ish repress. Not bad quality as regards the pressing and sound quality; wonderful, of course, as regards the quality of the music. As Cook and Morton point out, without Charles’s pianist of choice at this time, Horace Parlan, who was unavailable, Mingus had to step up and do rather. More bass ‘fills’ than might otherwise have been the case. His hugely varied bass work on this record – sometimes fiery, sometimes gentle, sometimes guitar-like – along with the small Nonagon Galleey audience gives this recording a curiously intimate feel. A real time capsule, this one.

  4. the very first issue of this magnificent album was in 1959 by United Artisis, well before the bent tenor period of the early sixties. The original catalogue number was UAL 4036 for mono and UAS 5036 for stereo. Beautiful cover picture of Mingus by Lee Kraft. Original DG blue labels for stereo (orange for mono. No RvG in dead wax.

    • Plastylite pressed some of United Artists Jazz editions – talk on LJC about Bill Evans/Jim Hall’s Undercurrent, some folk got ears. I have one UA with ear m’self, but having set out with great expectations, the mastering was not to Van Gelder standard, and a quality pressing could not rescue very average engineering. Hopefully your Mingus is more succesful!

  5. Listening to the tracks featured here today as we speak. As always Mingus’ work is a treat. And about the back cover: don’t you just love the ‘control guide for settings’ at the lower right corner? Funny that it has a ‘stereo’ button as well, knowing that this is a mono recording 😉

    • I well remember the days of bass and treble controls, and stereo balance, along with graphic equalisers and the “bass boost” button. Like you could improve what the musicians and engineer created, or make up for the deficiency in the quality of your equipment, by adjusting the “improve sound” dial. How very innocent we all were.

    • Ah, but the rough end of Richmond no doubt, Tony. Have to keep up one’s street cred in jazz circles.I lived there for twenty years, so I have a pass to poke fun at it.

      The photo is LJC’s alter ego, comedy actor John Thompson as Louis Balfour, host of the Fast Show spoof “Jazz Club”.He looks more like me than I do.

      • Yeah, it doesnt get much better than Barnes… LOL.

        Is that you in the green pic smoking the cigarette then beside your name?

        • Nope. Wonders of the Windows Snipping Tool. I’d like to be the host of Television’s “Jazz Club”, but unfortunately that was a work of fiction. There are times, however, when fiction feels preferable to real life..

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