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Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | Impulse!

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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and -- implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist -- it's as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter's attention to detail. There are a few stylistic reference points -- Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks -- but the totality is quite unlike what came before it. Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano. Within that framework, Mingus plays shifting rhythms, moaning dissonances, and multiple lines off one another in the most complex, interlaced fashion he'd ever attempted. Mingus was sometimes pigeonholed as a firebrand, but the personal exorcism of Black Saint deserves the reputation -- one needn't be able to follow the story line to hear the suffering, mourning, frustration, and caged fury pouring out of the music. The 11-piece group rehearsed the original score during a Village Vanguard engagement, where Mingus allowed the players to mold the music further; in the studio, however, his exacting perfectionism made The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady the first jazz album to rely on overdubbing technology. The result is one of the high-water marks for avant-garde jazz in the '60s and arguably Mingus' most brilliant moment. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Bebop - Released September 14, 1959 | Columbia - Legacy

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Charles Mingus' debut for Columbia, Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist's talents and probably the best reference point for beginners. While there's also a strong case for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as his best work overall, it lacks Ah Um's immediate accessibility and brilliantly sculpted individual tunes. Mingus' compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um. The band includes longtime Mingus stalwarts already well versed in his music, like saxophonists John Handy, Shafi Hadi, and Booker Ervin; trombonists Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis; pianist Horace Parlan; and drummer Dannie Richmond. Their razor-sharp performances tie together what may well be Mingus' greatest, most emotionally varied set of compositions. At least three became instant classics, starting with the irrepressible spiritual exuberance of signature tune "Better Get It in Your Soul," taken in a hard-charging 6/8 and punctuated by joyous gospel shouts. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is a slow, graceful elegy for Lester Young, who died not long before the sessions. The sharply contrasting "Fables of Faubus" is a savage mockery of segregationist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, portrayed musically as a bumbling vaudeville clown (the scathing lyrics, censored by skittish executives, can be heard on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus). The underrated "Boogie Stop Shuffle" is bursting with aggressive swing, and elsewhere there are tributes to Mingus' most revered influences: "Open Letter to Duke" is inspired by Duke Ellington and "Jelly Roll" is an idiosyncratic yet affectionate nod to jazz's first great composer, Jelly Roll Morton. It simply isn't possible to single out one Mingus album as definitive, but Mingus Ah Um comes the closest. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1963 | Impulse!

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Jazz - Released March 1, 1960 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Rhino Atlantic

The Clown was Charles Mingus' second masterpiece in a row, upping the already intense emotional commitment of Pithecanthropus Erectus and burning with righteous anger and frustration. With Pithecanthropus, Mingus displayed a gift for airtight, focused arrangements that nonetheless allowed his players great freedom to add to the established mood of each piece. The Clown refines and heightens that gift; instead of just writing heads that provide launch points for solos, Mingus tries to evoke something specific with every piece, and even his most impressionistic forays have a strong storytelling quality. In fact, The Clown's title cut makes that explicit with a story verbally improvised by Jean Shepherd (yes, the same Jean Shepherd responsible for A Christmas Story) from a predetermined narrative. There are obvious jazz parallels in the clown's descent into bitterness with every unresponsive, mean-spirited audience, but the track is even more interesting for the free improvisations led by trombonist Jimmy Knepper, as the group responds to Shepherd's story and paints an aural backdrop. It's evidence that Mingus' compositional palette was growing more determinedly modern, much like his increasing use of dissonance, sudden tempo changes, and multiple sections. The Clown introduced two of Mingus' finest compositions in the driving, determined "Haitian Fight Song" and the '40s-flavored "Reincarnation of a Lovebird," a peaceful but melancholy tribute to Charlie Parker; Mingus would return to both throughout his career. And, more than just composing and arranging, Mingus also begins to take more of the spotlight as a soloist; in particular, his unaccompanied sections on "Haitian Fight Song" make it one of his fieriest moments ever. Mingus may have matched the urgency of The Clown on later albums, but he never quite exceeded it. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 29, 1992 | Columbia

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Bebop - Released May 4, 2018 | jazz family

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Jazz - Released January 28, 2014 | Bethlehem Records

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Bebop - Released February 1, 1972 | Legacy - Columbia

On this LP issued by Columbia, Mingus thanked producer Teo Macero for "his untiring efforts in producing the best album I have ever made." From his deathbed in Mexico in 1979 he sent a message to Sy Johnson (who was responsible for many of the arrangements on the album), saying that Let My Children Hear Music was the record he liked most from his career. Although Mingus' small-group recordings are the ones most often cited as his premier works, this album does, in fact, rank at the top of his oeuvre and compares favorably with the finest large-ensemble jazz recordings by anyone, including Ellington. The pieces had been brewing over the years, one from as far back as 1939, and had been given more or less threadbare performances on occasion, but this was his first chance to record them with a sizable, well-rehearsed orchestra. Still, there were difficulties, both in the recording and afterward. The exact personnel is sketchy, largely due to contractual issues, several arrangers were imported to paste things together, making the true authorship of some passages questionable, and Macero (as he did with various Miles Davis projects) edited freely and sometimes noticeably. The listener will happily put aside all quibbles, however, when the music is heard. From the opening, irresistible swing of "The Shoes of the Fisherman's Wife Are Some Jiveass Slippers" to the swirling depths of "The I of Hurricane Sue," these songs are some of the most glorious, imaginative, and full of life ever recorded. Each piece has its own strengths, but special mention should be made of two. "Adagio Ma Non Troppo" is based entirely on a piano improvisation played by Mingus in 1964 and issued on Mingus Plays Piano. Its logical structure, playful nature, and crystalline moments of beauty would be astounding in a polished composition; the fact that it was originally improvised is almost unbelievable. "Hobo Ho," a holy roller powerhouse featuring the impassioned tenor of James Moody, reaches an incredible fever pitch, the backing horns volleying riff after riff at the soloists, the entire composition teetering right on the edge of total chaos. Let My Children Hear Music is a towering achievement and a must for any serious jazz fan. © Brian Olewnick /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 15, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

In spite of the electric guitars, which don't really fit that well, the title track is one of the more successful Charles Mingus efforts at extended composition. The list of section titles for the work is a valuable document in itself; it includes the "Super Bebop Blues (Check Bird Out)" with George Coleman and the dudes who are advancing group improvisation, while USA press ignores them. And still does. Not his best work, but not without merit. © Stuart Kremsky /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 20, 1994 | Rhino Atlantic

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Acid Jazz - Released July 19, 2011 | Fanwave Media

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Jazz - Released October 29, 1999 | RCA Victor

In a similar vein as his 1999 release Green Chimneys: The Music of Thelonious Monk, guitarist Summers now offers tribute to jazz pioneer Charles Mingus. The collection is a little cobbled together, with an ill-conceived rap from Q-Tip over "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and a sparse, unfunky reading of "Cumbia Jazz Fusion," but the former Policeman's bright guitar work works hard at tying it all together. Making more admirable guest spots are Randy Brecker bringing his crossover jazz trumpet to "Boogie Stop Shuffle," Deborah Harry singing on "Weird Nightmare," and the genre-bending Kronos Quartet performing a string arrangement of the final track "Myself." While at times overproduced and slick, Summers must be commended for approaching Mingus' daunting music head on and adapting it as his own. © Zac Johnson /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1966 | Fantasy Records

Soon after Charles Mingus finished touring Europe with his band (the unit that featured Eric Dolphy), he recorded this CD, performed live at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. With tenor-saxophonist Clifford Jordan and drummer Dannie Richmond still in the group but Jane Getz replacing pianist Jaki Byard and altoist John Handy filling in for Dolphy on one song, the band performs excellent versions of "Meditations on Integration" and "New Fables," both of which are over 23 minutes long. Although not up to the passionate level of the Mingus-Dolphy Quintet, this underrated unit holds its own. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 18, 1999 | Columbia

Charles Mingus' debut for Columbia, Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist's talents and probably the best reference point for beginners. While there's also a strong case for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as his best work overall, it lacks Ah Um's immediate accessibility and brilliantly sculpted individual tunes. Mingus' compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um. The band includes longtime Mingus stalwarts already well versed in his music, like saxophonists John Handy, Shafi Hadi, and Booker Ervin; trombonists Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis; pianist Horace Parlan; and drummer Dannie Richmond. Their razor-sharp performances tie together what may well be Mingus' greatest, most emotionally varied set of compositions. At least three became instant classics, starting with the irrepressible spiritual exuberance of signature tune "Better Get It in Your Soul," taken in a hard-charging 6/8 and punctuated by joyous gospel shouts. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is a slow, graceful elegy for Lester Young, who died not long before the sessions. The sharply contrasting "Fables of Faubus" is a savage mockery of segregationist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, portrayed musically as a bumbling vaudeville clown (the scathing lyrics, censored by skittish executives, can be heard on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus). The underrated "Boogie Stop Shuffle" is bursting with aggressive swing, and elsewhere there are tributes to Mingus' most revered influences: "Open Letter to Duke" is inspired by Duke Ellington and "Jelly Roll" is an idiosyncratic yet affectionate nod to jazz's first great composer, Jelly Roll Morton. It simply isn't possible to single out one Mingus album as definitive, but Mingus Ah Um comes the closest. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2020 | Velut Luna

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Jazz - Released March 15, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

In response to critical carping that his ambitious, evocative music somehow didn't swing enough, Charles Mingus returned to the earthiest and earliest sources of black musical expression, namely the blues, gospel, and old-time New Orleans jazz. The resulting LP, Blues and Roots, isn't quite as wildly eclectic as usual, but it ranks as arguably Mingus' most joyously swinging outing. Working with simple forms, Mingus boosts the complexity of the music by assembling a nine-piece outfit and arranging multiple lines to be played simultaneously -- somewhat akin to the Dixieland ensembles of old, but with an acutely modern flavor. Anyone who had heard "Haitian Fight Song" shouldn't have been surprised that such an album was well within Mingus' range, but jazz's self-appointed guardians have long greeted innovation with reactionary distaste. After Blues and Roots, there could be no question of Mingus' firm grounding in the basics, nor of his deeply felt affinity with them. Whether the music is explicitly gospel-based -- like the groundbreaking classic "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" -- or not, the whole album is performed with a churchy fervor that rips through both the exuberant swingers and the aching, mournful slow blues. Still, it's the blues that most prominently inform the feeling of the album, aside from the aforementioned "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" and the Jelly Roll Morton tribute "My Jelly Roll Soul." The recording session was reportedly very disorganized, but perhaps that actually helped give the performances the proper feel, since they wound up so loose and free-swinging. With a lineup including John Handy and Jackie McLean on alto, Booker Ervin on tenor, frequent anchor Pepper Adams on baritone, and Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis on trombones, among others, Blues and Roots isn't hurting for fiery soloists, and they help make the album perhaps the most soulful in Mingus' discography. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Contemporary Jazz - Released February 9, 2018 | Acqua Records

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Jazz - Released March 1, 1960 | Rhino Atlantic

In response to critical carping that his ambitious, evocative music somehow didn't swing enough, Charles Mingus returned to the earthiest and earliest sources of black musical expression, namely the blues, gospel, and old-time New Orleans jazz. The resulting LP, Blues and Roots, isn't quite as wildly eclectic as usual, but it ranks as arguably Mingus' most joyously swinging outing. Working with simple forms, Mingus boosts the complexity of the music by assembling a nine-piece outfit and arranging multiple lines to be played simultaneously -- somewhat akin to the Dixieland ensembles of old, but with an acutely modern flavor. Anyone who had heard "Haitian Fight Song" shouldn't have been surprised that such an album was well within Mingus' range, but jazz's self-appointed guardians have long greeted innovation with reactionary distaste. After Blues and Roots, there could be no question of Mingus' firm grounding in the basics, nor of his deeply felt affinity with them. Whether the music is explicitly gospel-based -- like the groundbreaking classic "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" -- or not, the whole album is performed with a churchy fervor that rips through both the exuberant swingers and the aching, mournful slow blues. Still, it's the blues that most prominently inform the feeling of the album, aside from the aforementioned "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" and the Jelly Roll Morton tribute "My Jelly Roll Soul." The recording session was reportedly very disorganized, but perhaps that actually helped give the performances the proper feel, since they wound up so loose and free-swinging. With a lineup including John Handy and Jackie McLean on alto, Booker Ervin on tenor, frequent anchor Pepper Adams on baritone, and Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis on trombones, among others, Blues and Roots isn't hurting for fiery soloists, and they help make the album perhaps the most soulful in Mingus' discography. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 2, 2001 | Rhino Atlantic

This 11-cut greatest-hits collection of the recordings of Charles Mingus is simply comprised of what are considered to be his best-known titles recorded for the Atlantic label between 1956 and 1959. The title tune from Pithecanthropus Erectus kicks off the set in grand style with fine solos by Jackie McLean on alto and J.R. Monterose on tenor. It is followed by "Profile of Jackie" from the same set. It's followed by the title track from Tonight at Noon, which wasn't released until 1964. Two other cuts from that same session, the wonderful "Haitian Fight Song" and "Reincarnation of a Lovebird," with longtime bandmates drummer Dannie Richmond and trombonist Jimmy Knepper, were originally released on The Clown. The latter two cuts are truly among the most loved tunes by the great composer, bandleader, and bassist. Three cuts from Blues and Root -- issued in 1960 -- follow, including Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'," and "Cryin' Blues." Once more, McLean, along with John Handy, hold down the alto chairs, with Richmond and Knepper as well as pianist Horace Parlan and tenor boss Booker Ervin in the mix as well. The final three tracks, "Ecclusiastics," the beautiful "Passions of a Man," and "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am" are all taken from the Oh Yeah session, issued in 1962. This date included the up and coming Roland Kirk on his trademark array of instruments, with Ervin, Knepper, bassist Doug Watkins, and Richmond on drums. Mingus played piano and did his vocal thing on the final cut. Unfortunately, nothing form Mingus at Antibes is included here, but as a consolation, there are excellent liner notes by Neil Tesser, author of the Playboy Guide to Jazz. This is a decent, even fine introduction to some of the best recordings by Mingus before his jump to Columbia, and can be had for a nominal price tag by the curious. © Thom Jurek /TiVo