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Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | Impulse!

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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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Jazz - Released November 13, 2020 | Sunnyside

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1963 | Impulse!

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Jazz - Released May 22, 2009 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Jazz - Released September 20, 1994 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released February 5, 2001 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released August 10, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released September 20, 1994 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released December 30, 1988 | ENJA RECORDS Matthias Winckelmann

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Jazz - Released April 19, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

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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 June 11, 2021 | Rhino Atlantic

Fascinating snapshots of musical evolution, live jazz albums capture improvisation as it happens. Famed as a "battle of the saxes," this set by the inimitable composer/bassist/bandleader Charles Mingus and his working sextet was originally released as a single disc, containing only the two long jams on the Duke Ellington standards, "Perdido" and "C Jam Blues" that closed the show. The reasons why the opening four tracks of that January 19, 1974 concert—"Peggy's Blue Skylight," "Celia" "Fables of Faubus" and "Big Alice"—were left unreleased until now remain unknown. Most likely it was the fear that a double LP would never sell. (But one with a pair of 20-minute tracks would?) The four songs (and spoken introduction) that were the first half of the concert have now been restored and are a welcome addition to the Mingus canon. Always a magnet for great talent because of his prolific composing and expansive artistic vision, the bassist here leads his spry working sextet of Don Pullen (piano), George Adams (tenor saxophone), Jon Faddis (trumpet), Hamiet Bluiett (baritone saxophone) and Dannie Richmond (drums). Those robust instrumental voices are reinforced in the two Ellington numbers by Charles McPherson (alto saxophone), John Handy (alto & tenor saxophone) and the ever-amazing Rahsaan Roland Kirk (on tenor saxophone and a straight alto sax he called stritch). Despite the age of the original tapes, the ringing, uncomplicated sound here makes Carnegie Hall's famous acoustics vividly audible. As live recordings go, the uncredited mix engineer did a fabulous job of balancing all the horns while never allowing Pullen's piano nor Mingus' bass to slide entirely into the background. The new remastering has brought out a brighter, more dynamic sonic image. The Mingus compositions heard in the first half are all classic examples of his swing and bebop-influenced devotion to melody counterbalanced by a rhythmic vitality that's unique in jazz. In opener "Peggy's Blue Skylight," each member glides through their solos with great elan. In "Celia" a tune named for the bassist's wife at the time, cacophony unravels into bravura passages with an expansive big band feel. Pianist Pullen is the star of "Fables of Faubus." Closing what was the original first set, Pullen's "Big Alice" is a funky, joyous, almost Second Line romp with Adams, Bluiett and Faddis all chipping in raucous solos. The much-ballyhooed sax fray on the pair of Ellington standards is a Fourth of July explosion of horn madness, playful and serious, squonking and legato, highlighted again by marvelous energetic solos by Kirk that at one point sound like an oncoming locomotive. Still not as essential as many of his studio albums, the story of this concert is now at least rightly told from the beginning instead of the end. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released March 1, 1960 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1963 | Verve Reissues

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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, 1995 | Impulse!

Having completed what he (and many critics) regarded as his masterwork in The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Charles Mingus' next sessions for Impulse found him looking back over a long and fruitful career. Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus is sort of a "greatest hits revisited" record, as the bassist revamps or tinkers with some of his best-known works. The titles are altered as well -- "II B.S." is basically "Haitian Fight Song" (this is the version used in the late-'90s car commercial); "Theme for Lester Young" is "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"; "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" adds a new ending, but just one letter to the title; "Hora Decubitus" is a growling overhaul of "E's Flat Ah's Flat Too"; and "I X Love" modifies "Nouroog," which was part of "Open Letter to Duke." There's also a cover of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," leaving just one new composition, "Celia." Which naturally leads to the question: With the ostensible shortage of ideas, what exactly makes this a significant Mingus effort? The answer is that the 11-piece bands assembled here (slightly different for the two separate recording sessions) are among Mingus' finest, featuring some of the key personnel (Eric Dolphy, pianist Jaki Byard) that would make up the legendary quintet/sextet with which Mingus toured Europe in 1964. And they simply burn, blasting through versions that equal and often surpass the originals -- which is, of course, no small feat. This was Mingus' last major statement for quite some time, and aside from a solo piano album and a series of live recordings from the 1964 tour, also his last album until 1970. It closes out the most productive and significant chapter of his career, and one of the most fertile, inventive hot streaks of any composer in jazz history. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Bebop - Released May 18, 2007 | RCA - Legacy

Inspired by a trip to Tijuana, Tijuana Moods was recorded in 1957 but was sat on by RCA until its release in 1962. Bassist/composer Charles Mingus at the time said that this was his greatest recording, and it certainly ranks near the top. The original version, which was usually edited together from a few different takes, consisted of just five performances. It has often been said that Mingus forced and pressured his sidemen to play above their potential, and that is certainly true of this project. Altoist Shafi Hadi (who doubles on tenor) is in blazing form on "Ysabel's Table Dance," while trumpeter Clarence Shaw (who was praised by Mingus for his short lyrical solo on "Flamingo") sounds quite haunting on "Los Mariachis." Trombonist Jimmy Knepper and drummer Dannie Richmond made other great recordings, but they are in particularly superior form throughout this session, as is the obscure pianist Bill Triglia. Completing the band is Ysabel Morel on vocals and Frankie Dunlop on castanets. While "Dizzy's Moods" is based on "Woody'N You," and "Flamingo" is given a fresh treatment, the other three songs are quite original, with "Tijuana Gift Shop" having a catchy, dissonant riff that sticks in one's mind. The passionate playing, exciting ensembles, and high-quality compositions make this a real gem, and it represents one of Charles Mingus' finest hours. [In the '80s, Tijuana Moods doubled in size with the release of two versions of each of the songs, and beginning in the 2000s, some reissues appeared with 22 performances.] © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 15, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Pithecanthropus Erectus was Charles Mingus' breakthrough as a leader, the album where he established himself as a composer of boundless imagination and a fresh new voice that, despite his ambitiously modern concepts, was firmly grounded in jazz tradition. Mingus truly discovered himself after mastering the vocabularies of bop and swing, and with Pithecanthropus Erectus he began seeking new ways to increase the evocative power of the art form and challenge his musicians (who here include altoist Jackie McLean and pianist Mal Waldron) to work outside of convention. The title cut is one of his greatest masterpieces: a four-movement tone poem depicting man's evolution from pride and accomplishment to hubris and slavery and finally to ultimate destruction. The piece is held together by a haunting, repeated theme and broken up by frenetic, sound-effect-filled interludes that grow darker as man's spirit sinks lower. It can be a little hard to follow the story line, but the whole thing seethes with a brooding intensity that comes from the soloist's extraordinary focus on the mood, rather than simply flashing their chops. Mingus' playful side surfaces on "A Foggy Day (In San Francisco)," which crams numerous sound effects (all from actual instruments) into a highly visual portrait, complete with honking cars, ringing trolleys, sirens, police whistles, change clinking on the sidewalk, and more. This was the first album where Mingus tailored his arrangements to the personalities of his musicians, teaching the pieces by ear instead of writing everything out. Perhaps that's why Pithecanthropus Erectus resembles paintings in sound -- full of sumptuous tone colors learned through Duke Ellington, but also rich in sonic details that only could have come from an adventurous modernist. And Mingus plays with the sort of raw passion that comes with the first flush of mastery. Still one of his greatest. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 28, 2014 | Bethlehem Records

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