theteach

Mingus's most unappreciated album?

144 posts in this topic

Hey everybody:

This is my first time posting in this forum. I've been an avid Mingus listener for five years. I previously thought I had listened to all his great albums--the Atlantic sessions, the Candid recordings, the 1964 European tour, etc. However, I just purchased his Bethlehem works and listened to A Modern Jazz Symposium album. Why isn't this album more recognized amongst Mingus fans? Scenes in the City is an amazing track, and now I'm actually contemplating using it in the classroom as a part of my African-American expressions unit. Great stuff about poverty, appreciation, cultural meaning, etc. Nouroog also obviously has the early workings of Sue's Changes, which would appear on the Changes album. Overall, great concept album. Just wondering, how's Branford Marsalis's version of Scenes in the City--just as good?

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome!

I think the main reason for the underappreciation of the Bethlehem side you mention is a simple one - lack of availability for years and years. Until the CD issue of a year or to ago, it had never, to my knowledge, been available past it's first issue (there might have been one European LP issue somewhere in the 1980s, but I'm not sure about that).

Now, that's far from the only great Mingus album that suffered from a lack of availabilty for years. When I started getting into jazz in 1970. the only Atlantic album that was in print was BLUES AND ROOTS. No PITHECANTHROPIS ERECTUS, no THE CLOWN, no TONIGHT AT NOON, no OH YEAH. And on Columbia, MINGUS AH UM was in print, but MINGUS DYNASTY wasn't. Not sure which Impulse! albums were in print, but I think they all were.

However, PITHECANTHROPIS ERECTUS & THE CLOWN had both made a pretty big impression on original release, so their "reputation" was already ensconced in the "consciousness" of jazz awareness. Plus, Columbia & Impulse! both issued 2-fer LP sets early in the decade, the former including both Columbia albums, the latter including the entire THE BLACK SAINT AND THE SINNER LADY album along with a good sampling of the other two.

But Bethlehem was a label that was on the scene for, what, 2-3 years? It's catalog (or some of it, anyway) was purchased by King (or Starday/King, not sure which), but they didn't do too much with it at all (I found a King reissue of Mingus' other Bethlehem albuum inth ecutout bins in or about 1985. Where it had been hiding all those years, I couldn't tell you...). It wasn't until the late 70s when the jazz reissue boom, LP era, was in full swing, that the Bethlehem catalog began to be reissued, and that program (ran by Cayre International, iirc) ran out of steam before they got around to anything by Mingus. So it was widely unavailable for quite a while.

Plus, I think the album got overshadowed in the press by the earlier Atlantic albums. First of all, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS was a major statement, and actually caused a fair amount of controversy in its time (and frankly, I've never understood why it went out of print for so long like it did). Second, Atlantic was a more visible label, and an ongoing one with a solid, commercially viable track record behind it. On the broad scale, critics and fans alike simply had more "awareness" of Atlantic than they did Bethlehem, if I'm reading my history correctly.

So when this Bethlehem side finally did get reissued, it did so w/o 40+ years of reputation and "mystique" behind it. I think that's the whole thing right there.

Now as far as another "underappreciated" Mingus masterpiece, allow me to proclaim (again!) the massive virtues of LET MY CHILDREN HEAR MUSIC. This one should be at the top of every Mingusphile's "to get" list, if it isn't already. An amazing album, I think.

Regarding Branford's "Scenes In The City", I like it, it's quite good, actually, and maybe even benefits from a more relaxed delivery of the narrative. But you could look at it like that relaxed quality results from the benefit of having 30 or so years to absorb the original. It's always easier to recreate than it is to create. OTOH, a good job is a good job, and Brandord did a good one here, I think. But since the original is now available, there's really no excuse for not using it as one's primary reference, I think.

Again, welcome. Stick around and join the fun!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Always thought 'Jazz Portrait' on UA with John Handy, Booker Ervin and Richard Wyands, etc. was never given the appreciation it deserves. An overlooked masterpiece. The 'Nostalgia in Times Square' track is a Mingus classic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lou, if you like Scenes In the City you should check out the "first draft' called A Colloquial Dream. This is on the recent 2 disc edition(s) of Tijuana Moods.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Both Bethlehem titles came to mind when I saw this thread's subject heading--MODERN and also EAST COASTING. I picked up MODERN around '95, when Bethlehem themselves re-issued many of their titles on CD, and instantly got hooked by the aforementioned "Scenes." (Planning to use it in a late-February program that will also feature some of Langston Hughes' work w/Mingus.) EAST COASTING also came out on Bethlehem; the band includes Jimmy Knepper, Shafi Hadi, Clarence Shaw, Dannie Richmond, and Bill Evans on piano. Fortunately Rhino re-re-issued much of the Bethlehem catalogue again under the "Avenue Jazz" moniker in the late 1990s, but that series unfortunately came to an end several years ago.

Jsngry and Joe Milazzo have both spoken highly of LET MY CHILDREN HEAR MUSIC, which means it's high time I sought it out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lou, if you like Scenes In the City you should check out the "first draft' called A Colloquial Dream. This is on the recent 2 disc edition(s) of Tijuana Moods.

I really like a lot of the stuff Mingus did arounf the time of Tijuana Moods. I think East Coasting, also in the Bethlehem Box and also TM-era, is not as well-known and appreciated as it should be.

I like the "sketchbook" piece from the Symposium album a lot, too. Mingus had a real gift for "programmatic" music, I think.

--eric

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome!

I think the main reason for the underappreciation of the Bethlehem side you mention is a simple one - lack of availability for years and years. Until the CD issue of a year or to ago, it had never, to my knowledge, been available past it's first issue (there might have been one European LP issue somewhere in the 1980s, but I'm not sure about that).

Now, that's far from the only great Mingus album that suffered from a lack of availabilty for years. When I started getting into jazz in 1970. the only Atlantic album that was in print was BLUES AND ROOTS. No PITHECANTHROPIS ERECTUS, no THE CLOWN, no TONIGHT AT NOON, no OH YEAH. And on Columbia, MINGUS AH UM was in print, but MINGUS DYNASTY wasn't. Not sure which Impulse! albums were in print, but I think they all were.

However, PITHECANTHROPIS ERECTUS & THE CLOWN had both made a pretty big impression on original release, so their "reputation" was already ensconced in the "consciousness" of jazz awareness. Plus, Columbia & Impulse! both issued 2-fer LP sets early in the decade, the former including both Columbia albums, the latter including the entire THE BLACK SAINT AND THE SINNER LADY album along with a good sampling of the other two.

But Bethlehem was a label that was on the scene for, what, 2-3 years? It's catalog (or some of it, anyway) was purchased by King (or Starday/King, not sure which), but they didn't do too much with it at all (I found a King reissue of Mingus' other Bethlehem albuum inth ecutout bins in or about 1985. Where it had been hiding all those years, I couldn't tell you...). It wasn't until the late 70s when the jazz reissue boom, LP era, was in full swing, that the Bethlehem catalog began to be reissued, and that program (ran by Cayre International, iirc) ran out of steam before they got around to anything by Mingus. So it was widely unavailable for quite a while.

Plus, I think the album got overshadowed in the press by the earlier Atlantic albums. First of all, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS was a major statement, and actually caused a fair amount of controversy in its time (and frankly, I've never understood why it went out of print for so long like it did). Second, Atlantic was a more visible label, and an ongoing one with a solid, commercially viable track record behind it. On the broad scale, critics and fans alike simply had more "awareness" of Atlantic than they did Bethlehem, if I'm reading my history correctly.

So when this Bethlehem side finally did get reissued, it did so w/o 40+ years of reputation and "mystique" behind it. I think that's the whole thing right there.

Now as far as another "underappreciated" Mingus masterpiece, allow me to proclaim (again!) the massive virtues of LET MY CHILDREN HEAR MUSIC. This one should be at the top of every Mingusphile's "to get" list, if it isn't already. An amazing album, I think.

Regarding Branford's "Scenes In The City", I like it, it's quite good, actually, and maybe even benefits from a more relaxed delivery of the narrative. But you could look at it like that relaxed quality results from the benefit of having 30 or so years to absorb the original. It's always easier to recreate than it is to create. OTOH, a good job is a good job, and Brandord did a good one here, I think. But since the original is now available, there's really no excuse for not using it as one's primary reference, I think.

Again, welcome. Stick around and join the fun!

I started buying Mingus in 1974, and those two Bethleham LPs were among the hardest to find. They were reissued on LP by Affinity in 1982-83; I was very happy to finally obtain copies.

As for underappreciated, I would nominate the group with Charle McPherson, Bobby Jones, Eddie Preston, Jaki Byard and Dannie Richmond that recorded to 2LPs for the French America label (reissued as a twofer, Reincarnation of a Lovebird).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great responses:

I also use Langston's work set to jazz during the winter time with my students. We specifically cover Weary Blues and Note on Commercial Street. I supplement it with our study of African American Civil Rights along with our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Mingus has been a heavy influence for me. Can you guys also point to me any other contemporary artists that are in the same vein as Mingus. I have listened to most post-bop of the late 50s-60s; the avant-garde of the early 70-early 90s; and also the swing era. Any recent albums or releases that you think will catch my attention?

I appreciate it.

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amiri Baraka did a live album on India Navigation backed by David Murray and Steve McCall that migh interest you. A bit more hardcore than Langston Hughes, though. ;)

And there was a Strata-East side by Jayne Cortez backed solely by Richard Davis that might be up your alley as well. Good luck finding it, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great responses:

I also use Langston's work set to jazz during the winter time with my students. We specifically cover Weary Blues and Note on Commercial Street. I supplement it with our study of African American Civil Rights along with our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Mingus has been a heavy influence for me. Can you guys also point to me any other contemporary artists that are in the same vein as Mingus. I have listened to most post-bop of the late 50s-60s; the avant-garde of the early 70-early 90s; and also the swing era. Any recent albums or releases that you think will catch my attention?

I appreciate it.

Lou

Mingus lives in the form of the Mingus Big Band, which has been playing weekly at the Fez in New York City for the last dozen or so years. Their recordings are worthwhile, though I would get all the Mingus-led sessions first.

I don't think there is anyone comparable to Mingus today. I hear a little Mingus parallel in drummer/leader Bobby Previte, who is an interesting composer and fine leader who has been making really good recordings in relative obscurity since the 1980s.

http://www.bobbyprevite.com/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good thread, welcome and stick around.

Just a reminder that now the Avenue/Rhino program has long gone belly up that these Bethlehem albums should still be available in Japan under the Toshiba monika.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the suggestions. I've seen the Mingus Big Band at the Fez. I'm happy and excited to see them head over to Iridium in November.

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, I spent the eighties sort of stockpiling Mingus music in concrete form and into my noggin. . . . I think only a small handful of other artists' music has made as much an impression on me.

I love East Coasting. . . from this time period this work really stands out for me. But I like the recordings made a year or so back and in front of it a lot as well. . . that's likely my favorite part of his work for me. BUT I love his work back and front and don't really have a way of perceiving what his most unappreciated album might be to all and sundry. For me, Three or Four Shades of Blue. I appreciate that one the least.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Always thought 'Jazz Portrait' on UA with John Handy, Booker Ervin and Richard Wyands, etc. was never given the appreciation it deserves. An overlooked masterpiece. The 'Nostalgia in Times Square' track is a Mingus classic.

:tup

This one never fails to astonish! The other one that popped up was "East Coasting", maybe the most haunting, lyrical album Mingus ever did. That band may be my favourite Mingus band ever, Dolphy and Booker notwithstanding.

ubu

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was a UK 2LP Mingus re-issue which included 'Scenes', put out in the late 1970s (an immediate hit with me when I picked it up, I have the feeling it was on Polydor, will have to check). A routinely under-rated performance by this fine group. Have just recently got hold of an original Bethlehem deep groove pressing of this one - worth having for that weird but extremely cool futuristic cover with Mingus's profile reflected in the shiny ball.

Edited by sidewinder

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always felt Mingus' collaboration with vibist Teddy Charles was underrated - it is very subtle and sophisticated, very moody, but scattered over three labels:

- the January 6, 1955 session for Prestige with J.R. Monterose & Jerry Segal

- the July 9, 1955 session for Debut with Miles Davis, Britt Woodman & Elvin Jones

- the November 12, 1956 session for Atlantic with Hall Overton & Ed Shaughnessy

As soon as I have the facilities I'll make my own CDR of these - when listened to in sequence they make a very strong impression. (Only the second was under Mingus' leadership.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Oh Yeah" was unappreciated by me for a long time. Maybe it was the vocals, maybe it was the jibe at Pops on 'Eat that Chicken', maybe the packaging on the Passions of a Man box. But whatever, I've been spinning this at work lately (volume not too loud!) and, man, this is one crazy, hilarious, and strangely beautiful work. Roland Kirk and Mingus--combustible when mixed!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One that I've been meaning to re-visit lately is MINGUS DYNASTY--it sometimes seems to get lost in the towering shadow of MINGUS AH UM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Any love for Mingus' Changes albums? I think they're underrated. Also, Let My Children Hear Music, from '72 has been a favorite in the past.

Heck, I like pretty much ol' Barron Mingus put out until around '77 or so.

Mingus was a major gateway into jazz for me. :rsmile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For a long time, I really underappreciated "East Coasting." It took Jazzbo to knock some sense into me. Now it is one of my favorites.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope it was more a persuasive nudge than a knock! I'm really quite peaceful, really, I am. Really! ^_^

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the '50s Mingus/John La Porta stuff is fascinating (and so is La Porta's autobiography, available from Cadence); I like Mingus's Candid's too, the first of which contains a version of Stormy Weather featuring Eric Dolphy which is, to me, the single greatest jazz performance I own. I know that's saying a lot, but this version has go to be heard to be believed -

Edited by AllenLowe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the '50s Mingus/John La Porta stuff is fascinating (and so is La Porta's autobiography, available from Cadence); I like Mingus's Candid's too, the first of which contains a version of Stormy Weather featuring  Eric Dolphy which is, to me, the single greatest jazz performance I own. I know that's saying a lot, but this version has go to be heard to be believed -

Being a Mingus completist, I'm very familiar with the Candid recordings which are uniformly excellent. I hadn't been aware that the Mingus-Dolphy version of "Stormy Weather" is underappreciated. It certainly shouldn't be as well as Dolphy's exposition on "'Round Midnight" with George Russell, both terrific recordings.

As far as underappreciated Mingus, I would nominate EAST COASTING (Bethlehem). In the short stretch of 1957-59, Mingus recorded quite often, including the albums TIJUANA MOODS, THE CLOWN, BLUES & ROOTS, and MINGUS AH UM. All of these albums are discussed more often and are generally considered the best of this period. I think EAST COASTING belongs in that select group if just for the track "West Coast Ghost" alone. There are other wonderful tracks as well on this terrific album.

Edited by MartyJazz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Marty, as one Mingus nut to another, I agree entirely with your post above!

I've been CHAMPIONING "East Coasting" for a long time. A truly special recording. And I see "Stormy Weather" trumpeted around a lot, hardly underappreciated. (Deservingly so, but I still like the Hadi-Knepper-Shaw band material a hair more for the denser front line and for the piano. . . . Me likey a piano with Mingus).

Edited by jazzbo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"East Coasting" is a terrific album, indeed! A sentimental favourite of mine, too. :tup

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.