This is Mingus at his most irresistible backed up by a truly wonderful set of players.
Amar Patel 2007-07-13
Spring 1964 is mostly memorable to Mingus fans and jazz lovers for his famous concert on 4 April at New York's Town Hall (supposedly the first concert by this star ensemble) preceding an all-conquering tour of Europe and one monumental concert at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California.
Few people, except the students at upstate Cornell University, have ever heard this compendium of material. As Gary Giddins states in the liner notes: ‘The Cornell concert captures them in the first light of shared discovery’. That’s about to change, thanks for this two-disc Blue Note reissue. Thanks indeed, as this is the most insightful practice session you’ll ever hear.
This is Mingus at his most irresistible backed up by a truly wonderful set of players, not least pianist Jaki Byard who runs the whole gamut of styles from ‘plop plop’ Tatum abstractions on ‘‘ATFW You’’ through to downhome boogie woogie on Billy Strayhorn’s ‘’Take The “A” Train’’. Dolphy, Mingus’s cherished cohort (celebrated in life on ‘’So Long Eric’’) and the man who ‘made’ the group a sextet, is pure class and his usually meditative self; the quivering opening to ‘‘Jitterbug Waltz’’ being case in point. Richmond demonstrates on each track just why Mingus kept faith with him for so long. The rhythm section just swings without mercy…until it’s time to go somewhere else, as is so often the case with a Mingus band playing live interpretations of his compositions like ‘‘Meditations’’ (here weighing in at an engrossing 31 minutes).
Clifford Jordan (tenor sax) is the perfect romantic foil for the fearsome bass man and peripatetic composer, lyrical yet brisk and insistent on ‘‘Fables Of Faubus’’ while Johnny Coles (trumpet) basks in the undulating fields of Dolphy and Jordan’s sassy horn play. At the end of the day though, it all starts and ends with the rudder of Mingus; his incisive ability to serenade, to tickle and to excite, all in the space of one arrangement (‘‘Orange Was The Colour…’’, for instance). Whether hard bop, waltz or Irish folk song, he assimilated and refined each one. Anyone wishing to hear more should pick up the recent Complete America Sessions reissue and the Music Not Heard at UCLA from 1965. But this remains ‘bassically’ essential.