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Charles Mingus - The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65 (#253)Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set
"Some jazz festivals settle immovable in one's memory," wrote downbeat. "Usually they have that rare and delicious moment when the intensity of a performance, its inspiration, is so overwhelming it sets off something akin to an electric shock… Such a performance roused the Sunday afternoon audience to a cheering, standing ovation at last month's Monterey Jazz Festival…"
Limited Edition: 7,500 copies
7 CDs - $119.00
From One Of The Few, True Geniuses - Charles Mingus
We all know about small, medium and large. Coach, Business, and First Class. And then there's urgent, critical, and life-threatening. At Mosaic, we have three stages, too: rare and historically important; acclaimed milestone; and undeniably monumental epic masterpiece.
We've uncovered another one of those epic masterpieces.
We are pleased to announce "Charles Mingus - The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65 (Town Hall, Amsterdam, Monterey '64, Monterey '65 & Minneapolis)." It chronicles the essential live performances of this genius of modern music as his compositions achieved a depth and complexity we would come to know as Mingus's most signature work. It includes (on the earlier recordings) the brilliant Eric Dolphy, along with Jaki Byard, Dannie Richmond, Johnny Coles, and Clifford Jordan -- certainly one of the best assemblages of musicians ever.
And the music, recorded across the world's concert stages and intended for release by Charles Mingus Enterprises, dashes once and for all every previously-held notion about what is, and isn't, jazz.
Never Before Available
What makes this collection even more appealing is the fact that, of the seven discs in the collection, only one of them has ever been available on an authorized CD. Almost two full CD has never been available on CD at all. And more than two hours worth of music include new discoveries - appearing for the first time ever, in any form.
Even listeners of the era knew they were witness to something special. Here are the reviews from just the Monterey performance, which included Lonnie Hillyer, Charles McPherson, John Handy, Byard, and Richmond:
"…he must be ranked among the greatest of jazz composers," wrote Time Magazine about Mingus's 25-minute masterwork, "Meditations for a Pair of Wire Cutters."
"The audience gasped when it suddenly ended," wrote Newsweek, "and roared their approval over and over as Mingus, pacified, like a big happy bear hugged his musicians."
"Monterey belonged to Charles Mingus, " wrote The San Francisco Chronicle. "It was a triumph."
Said Mingus himself: "On stage, I could feel the presence of my musicians like they were touching me…. I just wish I could give you that picture, that moment at Monterey along with the music."
How The Jazz Workshop Worked
It was the culmination of an enormous amount of work. In Mingus's Jazz Workshop the exploration never stopped. Rehearsals could go for days. Performances, if not up to his standards, might be interrupted for the leader to correct a musician, re-chart the course of the music, or admonish the audience for talking.
Mingus's great theme throughout his life was freedom - freedom from oppression and discrimination, freedom to record and own his own music, freedom from labels like "jazz," and freedom from established norms of what constituted composition. Ultimately, for the Workshop, he abandoned the rituals of traditional chart-writing, choosing to play musicians their parts on the piano, define improvisation in terms of ranges, and detail how ad lib sections and written sections would trade off or blend, obliterating the distinction between the two for the listener. "Organized chaos," he called it.
The result? Pieces that were exceptionally challenging to play and deeply rewarding to hear.
Distilled The Past, Predicted The Future
His music looked back to all of the history of jazz, and to all that would come after him. He wasn't just vastly respectful of tradition; he was also utterly inspirational to the free jazz movement and to all independent-minded musicians who would follow. Hearing the music, you almost can't process how well wrought his concepts were, how unexpectedly dramatic shifts came in dynamics and time, how brilliantly he featured the top musicians of his day, and how beguiling his melodies could be one minute, utterly comic and boisterous the next.
He was also an unsurpassed master on his instrument. There wasn't a style he didn't conquer. And then there were a few he invented, like playing a bass line, melody and harmonies at once; or growling, shouting, banging and ripping along - a man in a dialogue with his instrument.
Five of the tunes from the April 4, 1964 performance at Town Hall in New York have never been available before. The lineup of Dolphy, Jordan, Coles, Byard, and Richmond also performed in Amsterdam on April 10. The 1964 Monterey show in September features Hillyer, McPherson, Byard, and Richmond , expanded by six pieces for "Meditations" including John Handy Red Callendar, Buddy Collete and Jack Nimitz. In May of 1965, in Minneapolis, he was back to the five-piece Monterey lineup. That last date includes a great rarity, never before on record - "Copa City Titty (aka O.P.)," recorded only once before on an obscure Japanese big band record. Mingus's abbreviated 1965 Monterey set features an octet with Hobart Dotson, Jimmy Owens, Hillyer, McPherson, Julius Watkins, Howard Johnson and Richmond. Only two of the four pieces were issued on obscure compilations.
The music ranges from his interpretations of Ellington, tributes to his musicians ("Praying With Eric"), an exuberant celebration of Art Tatum and Fats Waller by Jaki Byard, an enormously ambitious portrait of bop called "Parkeriana," and Mingus's own spectaculars: "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk;" "Meditations," "Fables of Faubus," and "So Long Eric."
Mosaic's box set includes an essay and track by track analysis by Mingus biographer Brian Priestley, an essay on the listory of Charles Mingus Enterprises and rememberances by Sue Mingus and many rare photographs from the concerts. Like all of Mosaic's sets, our release is strictly limited to an edition of 7500. This is truly a find worth hearing, worth savoring, and worth collecting.
Masters were completed. Liner notes by Sue and Brian Priestly were done and we announced the set. Shortly thereafter, longtime Mosaic customer and jazz researcher Don Frese emailed us that, in fact, the missing Town Hall material was in the Library of Congress sitting in the Mingus archives and it contained the rest of "Parkeriana" and an unissued "Fables Of Fables." So we set about gaining access to that material.
Around the same time, Remco Plas, another longtime Mosaic fan from Holland chimed in that there had been a 1965 Monterey performance that had indeed been recorded and that one track was issued on Sue's East Coasting label and that another track had been on an obscure Monterey Festival Collection on Clint Eastwood's Malpaso label. So we contacted the folks at the Monterey Jazz Festival and Stanford University where their archive sits.
Pushing the parties along as fast as we could, we were able to retool the box, adding some previously released music and making it the complete 1964-65 Mingus-produced recordings with the exception of the 1965 UCLA concert that is still available on Sunnyside.
The set has necessarily expanded from 6 CDs to 7 CDs, which of course delays release. But anything that moves a project closer to perfection is worth the wait. This one has become quite an adventure and we hope you appreciate the results.
- Michael Cuscuna
Read More About Charles Mingus:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »
Although Charles left me in charge of his music publishing I had little idea what was involved. I imagine he would not be surprised that his music lives on or that repertory bands perform his music each week (the Mingus Big Band won a Grammy last year), or that his 500-page masterwork “Epitaph” was performed and published posthumously, or that a national Mingus High School Competition co-sponsored with the Manhattan School of Music and now in its fifth year, continues to inspire students across the land. In this 90th birthday anniversary year, Mingus music reaches a larger audience than ever. The Mosaic box set, with its offering of music recorded almost half a century ago, is a powerful reminder of just how contemporary that legacy continues to be. - Sue Mingus, liner notes
- Audio Quality
- Sample Session Notes
Capturing music live is a tricky proposition in any era. In this set, the sound varies from venue to venue because of different micing techniques and the acoustics of each venue, but we have sought out the best possible sources in each case. The unissued 31 minutes of Town Hall and 68 minutes from Minneapolis are far and away the best audio on the set.
Photo Copyright © Protected
The booklet offers a wealth of great photography of Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, Charles McPherson, Dannie Richmond and the rest of the band members heard here. Ray Avery captured Mingus Monterey triumph and we found photographs from the Amsterdam concert by Piter Doele, Koen and Nico van der Stam.
(a) Town Hall Concert, April 4, 1964
…This sets up the evening’s pièce de résistance, announced by Mingus at the time as Meditations. However, since this album was not only released after the Monterey Festival version but was envisaged as Mingus’s last recording with Dolphy to be issued, it was retitled here as Praying With Eric. This complex composition, which Byard subsequently noted was rehearsed in sections during the Five Spot residency, has been analyzed at length in Stefano Zenni’s book on Mingus, detailing the changes between this early version, one of the European concerts, and the Monterey performance. (Unfortunately, this has only been published in Italian but the naming of sections within the piece can readily be understood without the rest of the text.) Mingus’s spoken introduction also explains his intention of writing a composition that, like Ellington’s Black, Brown And Beige but in a totally different manner, depicts the dilemma of African Americans within U.S. society.
In terms of musical textures, the opening of this piece is one of the most innovatory moments in all of Mingus’s work. With the tenor’s ostinato acting as a background figure underlined by low-register trumpet accents, the mournful melody is carried by the flute and bowed bass, initially in octave unison and then with the bass leading and flute harmonizing. After this is repeated once, the change of tempo and texture that sees Dolphy switching to bass-clarinet and playing a deliberately discordant line needs to be savored. And that’s only the first two minutes of a piece more than ten times as long, and which takes the musicians and listeners on an emotional roller-coaster ride.
The Musiciansby Sue Mingus
Jaki Byard: Piano
There was never a better piano player in Mingus bands (unless you count MIngus himself) who could respond so totally to his needs. Jaki covered the waterfront. Charles never found anyone equal to his range and talent. It was revealing to see, many years later, that one of Jaki's own complex improvised solos, when transcribed from recording to paper for a performance by a new Mingus band was too difficult, or perhaps too boring for him to read and play on the piano. He couldn't do it-- repeat himself. – Sue MingusJohnny Coles: Trumpet
Johnny Coles's sound was so special Dexter Gordon called him "the holy man." We are fortunate the Concertgeboux performance in Amsterdam was recorded as Coles took ill shortly thereafter, was hospitalized in Paris, and was unable to travel for the rest of Mingus's European tour. (As it is, there are all too few of his recordings available.) In Paris the band placed a stool on stage where Coles would have performed. Like Clifford Jordan, he was an early member of the Mingus Dynasty band in the l980s. He died alone and nearly indigent in l997 in Philadelphia at the age of 71.Eric Dolphy: Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute
Eric Dolphy died in Berlin in July, l964, the week I met Mingus at the Five Spot in New York. The following week a substitute bass player was on stage at the club: Mingus had flown out to Los Angeles for Eric's funeral. The impact on him was similar to the loss felt by the entire musical community. Charles named his son Eric and dedicated an extended work to Dolphy's memory called "So Long Eric" which originally acknowledged Eric's exit from Mingus's band but ended as a farewell to life itself. There is a memorable exchange between the two of them which took place a few months earlier on a recording called "Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus," in which their instruments become human voices arguing about Eric's impending departure. Mingus and Lonnie Hillyer have a similarly notable exchange in "Themeless Blues" in this collection.Lonnie Hillyer: Trumpet
Mingus attributed Lonnie's ability to hear so astutely to the size of his ears. He regularly pushed his sidemen to go beyond themselves and believed Lonnie could play an octave higher if he worked at it-- anything was possible with work. Lonnie would modestly deny his talents ("I was so dumb in school," he said, "I got straight A's in Dumb.") They were talking about creativity; Charles had reminded everyone there also could be CREATIVITY IN STUPIDITY.Clifford Jordan: Tenor saxophone
Following the l964 European tour Jordan and Mingus stayed in touch although their musical paths diverged.Their studios were not far from one another in Manhattan and Clifford occasionally dropped by to visit. I still remember-- at a time when Mingus was performing "Fables of Faubus" and speaking out about civil rights abuses from the stage-- Clifford appearing at the door with a stained red and brown wooden stick from the Klu Klux Klan that had a notch for every murder—testimony too unspeakable to throw away. Years later Clifford was an early member of the Mingus Dynasty band with Mingus alumni Roland Hanna and Randy Brecker.Charles McPherson: Alto Saxophone
McPherson had the easiest time with Mingus of any musician I knew. Nothing McPherson did seemed to rile or ruffle Mingus who loved the sound of Bird which the young alto player from Detroit brought to the band. Recently I read some revealing comments McPherson made about Mingus in an interview: "He was painfully honest... confrontational.... he didn't edit anything. Whatever he thought he said. He was always in and out of trouble with people. But that was interesting to watch…. Working with Mingus was never a dull moment….Musically, you never knew what was going to happen... Once you got to know him you realized that, as volatile as he was, there was a core of decency about him. And that comes through when you know him. He had a sense of ethics, of what's fair."Dannie Richmond: Drums
Dannie was Charles's heartbeat: his crisp accompaniments to Charles's music existed in some magic stratosphere they inhabited together. Dannie had the longest tenure with Mingus: 17 years. When people called him Rich Man he would respond "Pover-tee in Person" which always annoyed Charles as he thought he was complaining about his salary. A man of style and precision, immaculately dressed, he perfected the art of folding and packing his flawless wardrobe inside a small suitcase and once invited us to his hotel room for a demonstration. He died in 1988 in a hotel in New York en route to join the Mingus Dynasty band in Europe. He was 56 years old, the same age at which Mingus died.
CUSTOMER REVIEWSClick here to write a review
And I thought I had all of Mingus' music!
"This set is incredible. The sound is top notch, of course there is detailed information about each concert and wonderful notes from Sue Mingus. I'm just amazed... I thought I had all of the Mingus recordings and from this set, I only had three songs! Thanks Mosaic... I'm already wearing this one out and it is only day 2."
Read More Reviews »
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