Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um: 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition (2009)
This special edition marks the 50th anniversary of bassist Charles Mingus' 1959 Columbia masterpiece, one of the great records in a year that included Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia), John Coltrane's Giant Steps (Atlantic) and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic). The Legacy edition is a two-CD set that also includes Mingus' second Columbia record of 1959, Mingus Dynasty, as well as alternate takes. It restores portions that were edited out on the original LPs in the interests of length and generally follows the three-CD 1998 release of The Complete 1959 Columbia Recordings, omitting just three alternate takes from the Dynasty sessions.
It's extremely well-known material but no matter how often one hears it, it's impressive work, from the stunning range of textures and moods that Mingus can summon from a small groupjust seven players on the Ah Um sessionsto the tumultuous energy that he and drummer Dannie Richmond can generate. Mingus celebrates many of his forebears without actually imitating them, including the classic homage to the then recently-deceased Lester Young, "Good-bye Pork Pie Hat"; the skipping two-beat syncopation of "Jelly Roll" that suggests Morton; the "Open Letter to Duke," an invocation of Mingus' principal model with a Latin beat and the expressionist "Bird Calls," which looks ahead to free jazz as much as it pays tribute to Charlie Parker.
Throughout the first disc, Mingus is well-served by his sidemen, from the elegant trombone work of Jimmy Knepper or Willie Dennis to the stylistic contrasts of the saxophonistsBooker Ervin's heated tenor, John Handy's suave refinement and the deep blues of Shafi Hadi. The compositions get denser and more ambitious on the slightly less-successful Dynasty sessions, including the occasional addition of cello parts, but it's still a major work, a composition of sublime spirit and luminous intelligence. It was just a year later that Mingus constructed hisgreatest small groupthe quartet with Eric Dolphy that recorded Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingusbut with Mingus Ah Um he had already made his greatest statement as a composer.
Track Listing: CD1: Better Git It In Your 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; Pedal Point Blues; GG Train; Girl of My Dreams; Bird Calls (Alternate Take]. CD2: Better Git It In Your Soul (Alternatve Take); Jelly Roll (Alternative Take); Slop; Diane; Song With Orange; Gunslinging Bird; Things Ain't What They Used To Be; Far Wells, Mill Valley; New Now, Know How; Mood Indigo; Put Me In That Dungeon; Strollin' (Nostalgia In Times Square).
Personnel: Personnel: Charles Mingus: piano, bass instrument, upright bass; Seymour Barab, Maurice Brown: cello; Jerome Richardson; flute, baritone saxophone; John Handy: clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Shafi Hadi: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Benny Golson, Booker Ervin: tenor saxophone; Richard Williams, Don Ellis: trumpet; Jimmy Knepper, Willie Dennis: trombone; Horace Parlan, Roland Hanna: piano; Teddy Charles: vibraphone; Dannie Richmond: drums.