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A Night At Cafe Bohemia / The Pithecanthropus Erectus Session

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Album Review

The U.K.'s Giant Steps imprint has done it again by placing together these chronologically consecutive Charles Mingus dates, which were originally released on two different labels. A Night at Cafe Bohemia was titled Mingus at the Bohemia and released on Debut in 1955, while Pithecanthropus Erectus, was issued by Atlantic in 1956. The reason this double-disc is important is that combined, they showcase the bassist/composer/arranger's transition into a bandleader of great renown. The band on the Bohemia date was comprised of drummer Max Roach, pianist Mal Waldron, trombonist Eddie Bert, and saxophonist George Barrow. The program consisted of readings of standards as well as three Mingus originals including "Jump Monk," and "Work Song," both of which showcased Mingus' antecedent line not only from his generation's bebop innovation, but from the advanced harmonics of Duke Ellington, and the place of postwar blues and R&B in his musical thought. When Mingus formed the Pithecanthropus Erectus band in late 1955 and recorded his debut for Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun's fledgling Atlantic imprint, he was already writing and arranging as well as directing his own big band that featured such stellar young talent as Jackie McLean, Charles McPherson, J.R. Monterose, Elvin Jones, and perhaps most importantly, offered the first pairing of Mingus with drummer Dannie Richmond in addition to Waldron. This session which netted four tunes on the original album and a few more on subsequent ones contained originals like "Haitian Fight Song," "Profile of Jackie," and "Love Chant," in addition to the title tune, as well as a stunning arrangement — and performance — of Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird." The bassist's love of gospel was also woven into his already rich brew and combined seamlessly into a sound that was instantly recognizable as his own. This is a terrific two-fer and should be sought out by anyone who doesn't already possess the complete sessions for both dates.

A Night At Cafe Bohemia / The Pithecanthropus Erectus Session, Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop
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