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Old May 21, 2010, 09:37 PM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Jazz Feature for May 24:Charles Mingus:"Let My Children Hear Music".

Tonight's Jazz Feature is a disc that Charles Mingus felt was one of his best recorded statements. It was done for Columbia Records in the fall of 1971. This record was Mingus' first domestically recorded work in the 70's. After 1965 Mingus went into a period of creative decline. His health (mental and physical) was delicate as were his finances. The gigs dried up and he had no regular band and his inspiration to make music had diminished. He was sick and discouraged. Mingus' life during this period has been very well documented through books, film and the internet. To add to his total frustration, he was evicted from his suite by the New York authorities. All of this is history. By the late 1960's Mingus began to play again and soon the gigs began to happen. His music took a more formal turn and written scores were once again used but his bass solos were few and far between and some people claimed that the old Mingus fire had been turned low. This was an exaggeration. It was simply that Mingus wanted his music and scores to be interpreted correctly first and foremost and the solos would take care of themselves. Mingus himself said, "I don't give a shit what the soloist plays as long as he plays my tunes right". A European tour in 1970 and some recordings done in Paris with his band (Charles McPherson, Jaki Byard, Dannie Richmond, trumpeter Eddie Preston and Bobby Jones on clarinet and tenor saxophone) let people know that Mingus was back. The Jazz Feature disc called "Let My Children Hear Music" was the recording that really let everyone know that Mingus was once again a vital musical force.

Mingus was a complex and volatile human being: one moment he could be moved by something funny and let out a belly-shaking roar of laughter and the next moment lash out at someone or something with unmitigated rage and anger. To say that Mingus was temperamental and unstable was true but just as true was that he was a creative and musical genius. Mingus always wanted to lead a big band like his idol Ellington. However, the complexities involved in putting together a permanent big band was not in the cards for Mingus for the previously stated reasons. Ellington, Basie, Kenton and Herman were gifted people who made many musical and social compromises to keep their bands employed and inspired. Mingus was able to and did keep small groups together during his career but with so many changes in his musical direction there were radical changes in personnel and the cold hard fact that Charles Mingus was not a "big" name. His nature also closed a lot of doors for him as promoters and club owners were wary of his moods and temper. During his early days in L.A., Mingus was able to assemble a big band for recording purposes and much of this is documented on the great historical CD on Uptown (UPCD 27.48) called Charles "Baron" Mingus: West Coast 1945-49. Later recordings for Columbia (Mingus Dynasty) and Mercury (Pre-Bird) were made possible by large budgets of major labels. His great albums for Impulse ('The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady' and 'Mingus, Mingus, Mingus.....') were actually made during a time when he had a long series of gigs at the Village Vanguard with an almost big band (10 to 12 pieces). Also a large ensemble was recorded at the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival (Mingus at Monterey). This brings us to the Feature album.

Columbia and producer Teo Macero (who played tenor with Mingus in the mid-fifties) came up with the money and Mingus resurrected several compositions that he had written for his 1965 octet that had played at the Monterey Jazz Festival and recorded at UCLA (Sue Mingus Music). A huge ensemble was employed and Mingus and Sy Johnson expanded the scores. Mr Johnson conducted and directed the orchestra while Mingus played. There are too many people involved to mention here but Mingus is heard on bass and also on piano, Charles McPherson is heard extensively on alto as is Lonnie Hillyer on trumpet (two of Mingus' favorites), Bobby Jones is heard on tenor saxophone. The first piece on the album is called "The Shoes Of The Fisherman's Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers", which is a reworking of a piece originally called "There Once Was A Holding Company Called Old America". Mingus was rather cavalier with titles and changed them when he felt the mood. A new piece called "The 'I' Of Hurricane Sue" is for Mingus' new girlfriend, whom he later married. The soloists here are McPherson, Jones and Julius Watkins on French horn. "Hobo Ho" is a Mingus composition transcribed by Bobby Jones but features the great James Moody on tenor in a long and exciting solo. "Don't Be Afraid, The Clown's Afraid Too" is also from 1965, expanded and with added sound effects and with a great Mingus bass solo and good solos by Jones, McPherson and Hillyer. A short piece will end the Feature called "Taurus In The Arena Of Life", a Mingus creation with has some piano work by Roland Hanna plus some lead work by McPherson and Hillyer. This only came out in the CD edition. Two more tracks complete the album but they have been played before and we'll hear them some other time as the instrumentation on these tracks is quite different. Mingus was fully involved in the post production of this recording and closely supervised the overdubbing and edits and the sound effects on "Dont Be Afraid....etc." Those of you who are lucky enough to have the LP of this major recording can read (enclosed between the covers) Mr. Mingus' notes and thoughts. The album was unfortunately weak in listing the personnel, dates etc. The CD issue is a bit better but still lacks a lot of info and only quotes randomly from Charles' notes. Tom Lord's Jazz Discography has an almost complete listing of the personnel and dates of the sessions that made up this album. Before his death on January 5,1979, Mingus was asked what his favourite album was of his own work and he said "Let My Children Hear Music". So be it.

Along with the Mingus Feature shortly after 11pm, I'll have a few Jazz Festival stars plus some recordings with tenor saxophone great David Schnitter, who played with Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard and others. David will be at the Cellar on May 28 and 29th. We start at 9pm.........see you then..........................
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