Monday, February 21, 2011

Charles Mingus - East Coasting

This sextet session dates from 1957, when the volcanic bassist and composer was first assembling his Jazz Workshop. Mingus had already put together the core of the band that would reach its summit two years later with Mingus Ah Um, including saxophonist Shafi Hadi, trombonist Jimmy Knepper, and drummer Dannie Richmond, who would be with Mingus's bands for the next two decades. The music has Mingus's distinct stamp, the rhythmic aggressiveness, sudden time (and mood) shifts, contrapuntal themes, and a palette of sounds that reaches back through bop to early jazz for the vocalizing, plunger-muted horns. His bass often sounds like articulate thunder as he presses his musicians toward a unique musical vision. Completing the group are two striking soloists: the seldom-heard trumpeter Clarence Shaw, best known for his work on Mingus's contemporaneous New Tijuana Moods, who combines thoughtful hesitancy and melodic daring; and pianist Bill Evans, whose distinctive musical presence and lyric imagination add to Mingus's often dense harmonies. The turbulent "West Coast Ghost" and the emotionally charged "Celia" stand out. --Stuart Broomer


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