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Album Review

While not reaching the heights of other recordings of its era like Mingus Ah Um, this album presents a fine collection of musicians who complement the increasingly adventurous compositions of Charles Mingus. As much a tribute album as an exploration of Mingus' psyche, this recording for the Candid label contains three works. There's "MDM (Monk Duke & Me)," which features the players in Mingus' Jazz Workshop weaving through three intertwining themes: Duke Ellington's "Main Stem," Thelonius Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," and Mingus' own "Fifty-First Street Blues." The song manages to echo the styles of all three songs while tying them together in a unified whole. "Stormy Weather," the second track on the album, finds Mingus working within the classic quartet (Mingus, Dannie Richmond, Eric Dolphy, and Ted Curson) to produce a somewhat deconstructed version of the classic song. The third track, though, takes a completely different tune. The larger band is brought out again, but this time they are playing an example of true Mingus madness. Indeed, the inspiration for "Lock 'Em Up (Hellview of Bellvue)" came when Mingus ill-advisedly knocked on the front door of the Bellvue mental hospital, hoping to get some relief for some minor malaise and found himself committed, necessitating a rescue by some of his friends. The song explodes in angry, chaotic frenzy, and acts as a precursor to some of the off-the-wall music that Mingus had in his future. Combined, the three tracks on Mingus make for some solid listening, even if it lacks moments of true greatness.

Biography

Born: 22 April 1922 in Nogales, AZ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Irascible, demanding, bullying, and probably a genius, Charles Mingus cut himself a uniquely iconoclastic path through jazz in the middle of the 20th century, creating a legacy that became universally lauded only after he was no longer around to bug people. As a bassist, he knew few peers, blessed with a powerful tone and pulsating sense of rhythm, capable of elevating the instrument into the front line of a band. But had he been just a string player, few would know his name today. Rather, he was...
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