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New Album of the Week: Charles Mingus, Mingus x 5

Peter Johnson

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I'm playing this on my thirtynine year old British HMV mono pressing, bought new at the time. Fortunately it's still in very good shape and sounds fine, though some of the edits are pretty obvious even on this issue.

I'll own up straight away to not enjoying those thick sax harmonies which crop up here and on "Black Saint.." but that apart there's some agreeable music here. but I don't think it's great by Mingus standards. The most enjoyable track for me was the most straight forward, Hora Decubitus. Good solos and a nice degree of genuine excitement. It doesn't have the lasting impact of say "Ah Um" which never fails to delight. I hadn't remembered, or maybe never realised, that all the pieces here are reworkings of earlier recordings. In every case the original is superior in my opinion.

I love this topic. There's no way I would have pulled this record from the shelf without it and listened to it properly again for the first time in so many years. I'm sorry I didn't enjoy it more.

Edited by JohnS
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I had some friends over for a dinner party last Saturday evening.

Cooked up some veal and pasta, served some Bitburger and Peroni beer, as well as a few bottles of wine.

Times like that give me a chance to try and get people hip to the music. Where the hell are they going to go? My Chihuahua watches the door with the look of a demon on her face, as if to say "sit yo ass down sucka."

I was spinning this very Mingus date the tune was II B.S., and a buddy of mine looked ath the cover and said; "this dude is trying to keep it old school, check him out." Then he said; "shit this is from 1963, I would have never known."

By time the night was over, I had a inquiring minds. Not to mention a wallet that fell out of someones pocket. ;)

Mingus can still reach em.'

Edited by catesta
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Though I tend to prefer Mingus´ smaller ensembles work, and though this recording is sort of "greatest hits revisited" (only one real new composition, "Celia"), this band sounds with total perfection and arrangements and new vissions of earlier Mingus´ themes are superb!!!

I like Mingus´ bass sound, which you can hear in the front-line like never before!

It´s in my top-ten Mingus recordings (don´t know now if in my top-five)

This album of the week thread is a very good idea!


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Thought I'd add my thoughts before this topic ends. I bought this record shortly after it was released and still have my old mono copy after all these years. I also have the 20 bit cd issue which I've listened to in my car a couple of time this week. I've probably listened to Mingus x 5 at least 50 times over the years and it still moves me and I still hear new things when I listen to it. I guess that's as high a recommendation as I can give to any record. This is music of high passions and strong feelings. To me, that's what music is supposed to be.

Further thoughts:

This is definitely a bassist's record. Mingus' bass is recorded to the forefront - not realistic, but musically sucessful in this case. "Bull fiddle" is perhaps a perjorative term, but that's what comes to my mind when I hear Mingus driving the band during the ensembles and solos. Mingus' solo on "Mood Indigo" is one of my favorite bass solos - his bass sings.

"I X Love" - I particularly enjoy the voicings during the section where what sounds like an oboe (though there's none listed in the liner personnel) comes to the fore. It brings to mind numerous Ellington recordings where I find myself wondering how he got that sound. I wonder what part of this in Mingus, and what part Bob Hammer? I love the way Charlie Mariano manages to bring forth some of the spirit and sound of both Johnny Hodges and Bird without mimicking either.

Walter Perkins plays some nice cymbal sounds on this tune, and his drumming is a pleasure throughout the record.

Thanks to a post on the Booker Ervin thread by Mr. Nessa, I'm more aware of Booker Ervin's shortcomings than I once was. However, I also find myself more aware of his strengths. The intensity of his solo on "Theme for Lester Young" captures the feeling of loss and sorrow that Pres' death must have brought to Mingus.

I agree with impossible. In all the times I've listened to this record, I never once compared these performances with previous or later ones. For me, this is where Mingus was in 1963, and that's all that matters.

By the way, impossible, you should have gotten the job just for recommending this record to the interviewer. Too bad life doesn't work that way.

"Hora Decubitus" - Eric Dolphy!

I've always enjoyed and learned from Mingus' liner notes. Among jazz musicians, Ornette's liner notes are probably the only ones I enjoy more. Here, speaking of Lester Young, "If I had to use one word to describe him, it would be sensitivity. He towered over most other musicians, but he didn't do it as a gorilla."

Mingus the historian - "...the Savoy Sultans, though a small combo, 'used to outswing most big bands, by just building on riff patterns. Here I wanted to do the same thing - to swing hard!'" How many jazz critics were writing about the Savoy Sultans in 1963?

The cd issue adds "Freedom" to the original lp. To me, the lp was fine as it was. More doesn't always mean better. It's the last track though, so I can just skip it if I want.

I hope the above makes it obvious that I love this record.

Edited by paul secor
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