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Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um (2008)

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Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Drop the needle on Charles Mingus' bluesy call to prayer on "Better Git It In Your Soul" and Legacy's decision to include Ah Um in its vinyl series comes into sharp focus. There's simply no better way to hear the 1959 Columbia masterpiece than on 12" vinyl and, while it may be hard to detect the business logic behind the series, the meticulous remastering by Allan Tucker makes clear the aesthetic motive.

During the last decade, the major jazz labels have essentially been in the reissue business. Archival photos and historical essays have cluttered CD liner notes and unreleased tracks, rehearsals and false starts have been tacked onto LP-length albums to fill 80-minute digital capacities. On their vinyl series, Legacy has taken a minimalist approach. Duplicating the original LP sleeve with its quirky, geometric painting on front and the detailed 1959 notes by Mingus biographer Diane Dorr-Dorynek on the back, the focus is once again on the incredible music and, because of the limited LP format, it's the original nine tracks that Mingus intended.

Ah Um represented a turning point in Mingus' career on multiple fronts. The personnel is a mix of mainstays from the bassist's '50s ensembles and newer voices that would play an increasingly important role in Mingus' tumultuous output during the '60s. Producer Teo Macero began his career on sax and was an early participant in Mingus' Jazz Workshops before arranging the Columbia sessions that would result in Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty (Legacy, 1959) and later the bassist's triumphant return to the label with Let My Children Hear Music (1972). A transition is also apparent in the choice of material, as Mingus moves away from the third-stream, modernist vision—"Self Portrait in Three Colors"—cultivated in the mid-'50s to a more guttural, increasingly political style embodied by the still lyricless "Fables of Faubus."

Track Listing: Better Get It in Yo' Soul; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Boogie Stop Shuffle; Self-Portrait in Three Colors; Open Letter to Duke; Bird Calls; Fables of Faubus; Pussy Cat Dues; Jelly Roll.

Personnel: Willie Dennis: trombone; Booker Ervin: tenor sax; Shafi Hadi: alto, tenor sax; John Handy: clarinet, alto sax; Jimmy Knepper: trombone; Charles Mingus: bass, piano; Horace Parlan: piano; Dannie Richmond: drums.

Record Label: Legacy Recordings

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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