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Charles Mingus: Live at Montreux 1975

Jim Santella By

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Charles Mingus
Live at Montreux 1975
Eagle Vision
2004

With complete liner notes and credits, this concert performance makes a valuable addition to the DVD library. That it's vintage Mingus in top form makes things all the better.

As this is a live performance, the sound isn't always perfect. George Adams, for example swings away from the microphone quite often, leaving a trail of notes behind. At other times, the recording engineer has failed to turn up the volume on one microphone or the other. And the camera work isn't always on top of the action.

However, Charles Mingus and his band gave this Montreux audience a superb performance that includes all the elements that we yearn for. Don Pullen smashes those piano keys down hard and swirls multi-note clusters through each straight-ahead piece with clarity. Jack Walrath explores the range of his instrument and exhibits stellar technique while staying with the mood proposed by Mingus. The bassist solos frequently and leads his ensemble with a dynamic aura. One great camera shot places Mingus behind Jack Walrath's horn and moves in to fill the picture with the bassist's face while he's walking the blues in a confident state. His leadership takes the band through each concert piece with a natural ease.

These are extended pieces. "Sue's Changes, alone, runs for 35 minutes; giving the band plenty of time to explore each facet of the composition. As Walrath stretches out a cappella with a soulful interpretation, Mingus lights his cigar and waits for the right moment to bring his band back together. During one of Dannie Richmond's extended drum solos elsewhere, he can be seen with cigarette dangling from his lip, churning out a storm of percussive textures. Mingus and his band are at home on the stage, able to interpret with honesty and power.

As Gerry Mulligan and Benny Bailey join the band for two numbers, the mood stays as fresh and alive as earlier, but the camera angles and solo order change. Both Bailey and Mulligan provide superb solo work that blends well with Mingus' intentions. At the concert's close, Mingus, Mulligan and Bailey trade fours then jam, giving the audience an extra treat.

Live at Montreux 1975 is a memorable concert that captures seven significant jazz artists doing what they do best, and comes highly recommended.

Approximate Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes.

Director: Thierry Amsallem

Track Listing: Devil Blues; Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi USA; Sue's Changes; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Take the 'A' Train.

Musicians: Charles Mingus: bass; Jack Walrath: trumpet; George Adams: tenor saxophone, flute, vocals; Don Pullen: piano; Dannie Richmond: drums; Gerry Mulligan: baritone saxophone on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and "Take the 'A' Train;" Benny Bailey: trumpet on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and "Take the 'A' Train."


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