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Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975

Mike Jurkovic By

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Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975
It is 1964 and the big bass emperor rules the old continent as he commanded every stage he set foot on. So @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 just does not sound right. Charles Mingus Swings Bad Ass and Liberates Your Body and Your Mind @ Bremen sounds way more like it. For—as much as anything in his grand, sweeping arc serves to highlight how mercurial and spot-on his real time genius was—this previously unreleased four-disc joy bomb will certainly be entered into evidence.

The man exuded brazen spirit and in '64 he flat-out couldn't contain it. Nor did he ever really want to. So he doesn't; audience, historian, and musicologist be damned. Nothing—not the blues, not free radical, not trad, not bop (post or future, hard or linear)—was off limits. And with no markers, the way ahead was wide open.

John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck had their classic quartets, Bill Evans his classic trio. Here in sparkling audio is Mingus and his classic sextet—saxophonist Clifford Jordan, trumpeter Johnny Coles (forced to leave the shenanigans right after this performance due to illness), pianist Jaki Byard, drummer Dannie Richmond and all-expectations-defying multi-reedist Eric Dolphy(who was, mournfully, not long for this mortal plane) if not at peak power then damn well close and if there's a meter to measure that, good freaking luck.

Confident abandon is the order of April 16,1964 as Mingus and Richmond shift, shuttle, and shuffle without a second guess throughout a twenty-six minute "Hope So Eric" (or "So Long Eric") giving Byard and the brass free license to ride higher and higher, taking a workshop groove and playing it for damn well all it was worth. Biting satire and less than covert sparring spark the half hour "Fables of Faubus," with Dolphy delivering bracing, particularly querulous arguments. Byard is all concussive stride both on "Piano Solo" and the tumultuous "Parkeriana" the latter a defining Johnny Coles highlight reel. Ever enthralled by {[Duke Ellington}}, Mingus was always ready to pay homage or dismantle, and with "Sophisticated Lady" he does both with bold lyrical muscle. As on any of the recordings from this legendary era, "Meditations On Integration" is a work of raw, fascinating resilience, pulled by tradition and political angst, bending to five different whims but never breaking as Dolphy's flute floats like a flower over the tempest.

Flash forward eleven years and we have Mingus riding another career crest, this time with a quintet that recorded only two albums as a whole, though both are late period watermarks, namely Changes One (Atlantic, 1974) and Changes Two (Atlantic, 1975.) Kicking at full force hurl, the adventurous half-hour long "Sue's Changes" introduces tenor saxophonist George Adams, trumpeter Jack Walrath, Mr. Ready and Reliable himself, Dannie Richmond, and especially pianistDon Pullen (whose energy level is remarkable from start to finish) tobogganing fearlessly through Mingus' latter day elasticity. Sy Johnson's hopping "For Harry Carney" is a propulsive habanera, with Pullen at the helm, Adams honking dark and gleeful while the maestro himself rumbles and roils.

Considering Mingus was suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) at this time, it is a remarkable triumph of spirit and determination that the power of Bremen '75 very often echoes and quite possibly at times surpasses the group energy of Bremen '64. Nimble, superb, and imaginative, the ensemble never lets up through such raucous reveries as the Richmond driven "Black Bat and Poles," a seething, street-level reimagining of "Fables of Faubus," and another of Mingus' political tirades, "Remember Rockefeller At Attica." Mingus defiantly stares down his illness with the closing "Devil Blues," basically an extended solo that the band joins in on and Adams hollers magnificently. There's a lot of live Mingus out there but this one has just jumped to the top of that grand discography.

Track Listing

Disc 1: Hope So Eric; Fables Of Faubus. Disc 2: Piano Solo; Sophisticated Lady; Parkeriana; Meditations On Integration. Disc 3: Sue’s Changes; For Harry Carney. Disc 4: Free Cell Block F ‘Tis Nazi USA; Black Bat And Poles; Fables Of Faubus; Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love; Cherokee; Remember Rockefeller At Attica; Devil’s Blues.

Personnel

Charles Mingus: bass, acoustic; Johnny Coles: trumpet; Eric Dolphy: woodwinds; Clifford Jordan: saxophone; Dannie Richmond: drums; Jaki Byard: piano; Jack Walrath: trumpet; George Adams: saxophone, tenor; Don Pullen: piano.

Discs 1 & 2: Charles Mingus: bass; Johnny Coles: trumpet; Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet; Clifford Jordan: tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard: piano; Dannie Richmond: drums. Discs 3 & 4: Charles Mingus: bass; Jack Walrath: trumpet; George Adams: tenor saxophone, vocal; Don Pullen: piano; Dannie Richmond: drums.

Album information

Title: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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