Sunday, January 24, 2010
Charles MINGUS - Blues & Roots 1960
Bassist Charles Mingus was always ready for a good fight. In the liner notes to this disc, Mingus says he wanted to respond to critics who said he didn't swing enough. And reply he did. Mingus gave whoever these absurd quibblers were some of the most ecstatic blues ("Moanin'" and "Cryin Blues"), gospel ("Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting"), and Dixieland ("My Jelly Roll Soul") the jazz world has ever heard. Along with his striking original compositions, the instrumental combination in Mingus's nonet remains unconventional: the frontline included four saxophonists and two trombonists without the counterweight of a trumpeter. The leader's sliding-octave bass lines and percussive slaps are totally rollicking, and the wild abandon in the group's playing is irrepressible.
By Aaron Cohen.
This album is similar in feeling to the great "Mingus Ah Um." Overall, it highlights Mingus' blues/gospel influences. "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting," (5:39) for example, in the tradition of songs like "Better Git It Into Your Soul"("Mingus Ah Um") and "Slop ("Mingus Dynasty")." Unfortunately, this driving piece is flawed by (the otherwise-excellent) Horace Parlan's repetitive piano--for a few seconds it seemed like the album was stuck. The song is rooted in a deep mix of trombone (Willie Dennis), tenor sax (the amazing Booker Ervin), and bass, and punctuated by Mingus' trademark shouts.
"Cryin' Blues is also steeped in Mingus' bass (excellent solo work and well-recorded) and the soulful anchor of Pepper Adams' baritone sax. Parlan lays down some bluesy riffs and Jackie McLean leads the way home with his solo on this five-minute cut. "Moanin'" (7:57) and "Tensions" (6:27) are blues-oriented pieces, dominated by Mingus' intense, virtuoso bass, a strong solo by Ervin, and fiery ensemble playing.
"My Jelly Roll Soul" (6:47) is a light, zesty, and almost tongue-in-cheek cut inspired by early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton. Dannie Richmond lays down some brushwork and other flourishes. "E's Flat Ah's Flat Too (6:37) is kind of an amalgamation of the previous cuts, with Mal Waldron taking over on piano. Mingus' compositions and bass playing are the highlights here There's not quite as much solo work by the other musicians compared to other Mingus albums, although there's enough to keep things lively and interesting. I don't have the original album, but I didn't notice anything exceptional about the remastering except to note that Mingus is recorded very well. I mention this only because there's another slightly more expensive "Blues and Roots" available at Amazon. (See Amazon CD: Wea/Atlantic/Rhino; ASIN: B00000348B. There is no mention of remastering but there are five alternate takes.) Mingus notes that he taught the compositions to the group by ear rather than as written music, "so they'd play the compositional parts with as much spontaneity and soul as they'd play a solo." He and the ensemble obviously succeed. "Ah Um" is probably the better album, but this is very much worth having.
By M. Allen Greenbaum.
Charles Mingus- Bass
Dannie Richmond- Drums
Horace Parlan, Mal Waldron- Piano
Jackie McLean, John Handy- Alto Sax
Pepper Adams- Bariton Sax
Booker Ervin- Tenor Sax
Jimmy Knepper, Willie Dennis- Trombon
A1. Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting 5:39
A2. Cryin' Blues 4:58
A3. Moanin' 7:57
B1. Tensions 6:27
B2. My Jelly Roll Soul 6:47
B3. E's Flat Ah's Falt Too 6:37