Sunday, February 17, 2013

Never Enough Mingus

Last December I took great pleasure in preparing an article for my national site about a limited edition box set from Mosaic records covering five performances by Charles Mingus given between April of 1964 and September of 1965, many of which were issued on a label Mingus called "Jazz Workshop." If ever there were a performer who made jazz worthy of my treasured "chamber music by other means" epithet, Mingus was definitely the one. Indeed, I would say that Mingus was one of my major influences that turned me towards listening to jazz with the same mindset I had been bringing to classical music.

I am happy to report that, earlier this week, Christopher Carroll put up a NYRBlog post about both Mingus and this same Mosaic collection. The article spends more time than I did on Mingus' personality, which I simply let pass as "difficult" while citing Richard Wagner as a predecessor. If I were to take issue with Carroll at all, it would be over his placing too much emphasis on Mingus' work on labels other than his own. I am willing to acknowledge that The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady on Impulse! may have been a critical success with a revenue stream that made a difference to Mingus. However, Mingus' discontent with the commercial studios extended even to Impulse!; so I doubt that he, himself, would have called it "one of his greatest albums." Since there is no document of this music in a performance led my Mingus (I do not know if the Mingus Big Band has taken on this piece yet), the recording is all we have; but I shall always prefer listening to recordings made in concert.

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