With previously unreleased material from Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and now, Charles Mingus, it may feel in 2018 like we are living fifty years in the past. Jazz In Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden captures a short-lived quintet thatgiven timecould have been Mingus' best. Drummer Roy Brooks and trumpeter Joe Gardner had been touring Europe with the bassist and returned to play a radio broadcast on WDET in Detroit in 1973. Their host was a station producer (and drummer) Robert "Bud" Spangler. Mingus brought in pianist Don Pullen and saxophonist John Stubblefield to complete the group and they often steal the show.
Perhaps it was Mingus' volatile nature that contained the same seed that made him an unpredictable composer whose music could reflect the influences of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker, but typically with a uniquely boisterous and imaginative bent. But those same explosive characteristics likely contributed to the rapid demise of this talented quintet before it could gel. Creative differences with Mingus caused Pullen to leave the group after two years. Stubblefield lasted less than half a year after an altercation with the bassist. Fortunately, both went on to significant successes, Pullen more so in Europe than the U.S.
There are ten compositions on Jazz In Detroit, two being alternate takes of "Celia" and "Dizzy Profile." Six of the tracks clock in at more than twenty-minutes allowing Pullen and Stubblefield generous time for expressive solos. Along with Mingus, they shine on "Peggy's Blue Skylight" and "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk," both harder swinging than their original versions. The group is at their hard bop best with "Pithecanthropus Erectus" and drenched in the blues with "Noddin' Ya Head Blues," featuring a terrific Mingus solo. "Dizzy Profile"another bluesy piecehad not been previously recorded.
The five-CD/LP could have been distilled down to three discs had the label eliminated a thirty-five-minute interviewnot with Mingusbut with Brooks, a hometown favorite. An additional seven minutes is given to station promotion announcements and the alternate takes do not add anything of great significance. That said, it is a pleasure to hear Pullen and Stubblefield in these long-form excursions, and though Mingus keeps most of his solos brief, he occasionally reminds us that he was more than a great composer and band leader. Jazz In Detroit is a flawed but mostly very entertaining collection.
CD1: Pithecanthropus Erectus; The Man Who Never Sleeps; Peggy’s Blue Skylight. CD2: Introduction by Bud Spangler / Celia; Bud Spangler interview with Roy Brooks and commentary. CD3: C Jam Blues; Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk; Dizzy Profile. CD4: Noddin’ Ya Head Blues; Celia (alternate take). CD5: Dizzy Profile (alternate take); Strata Gallery Announcement by Bud Spangler.
Charles Mingus: bass; Roy Brooks: drums, musical saw; John Stubblefield: tenor saxophone; Joe Gardner: trumpet; Don Pullen: piano.