402

Charles Mingus: Thrice Upon A Theme

By

Sign in to view read count
The reissue/compilation has always held a tenuous position in the music world. At best, it can save a work from obscurity; at worst, it can take it out of historical context and unnecessarily clutter the market with music that has been safely anthologized. A reissue of a reissue, Thrice Upon a Theme, is nonetheless a welcome addition to Charles Mingus' vast discography.

The two-disc set contains a pair of relatively obscure mid-'50s sessions that in one case predate and in the other coincide with the bassist's groundbreaking work on Atlantic Records. Disc one, originally released on the obscure Period label and later reissued on Bethlehem, finds Mingus leading a sextet through a set of reworked standards and striking originals. Mingus' maturity both as a player and composer is apparent throughout the odd session as he restlessly plucks lines or pounds out dissonant voicings on the piano behind the soloists, who alternately shine and flounder amid the intricate framework. Thad Jones' trumpet mumbles and leaps over a thorny horn accompaniment on "What Is This Thing Called Love, before making way for John LaPorta's sharp, biting alto and the airy tenor of a young Teo Macero.

"Minor Intrusions and "Thrice Upon A Theme brilliantly illustrate Mingus' prowess as a composer and foreshadow his future triumphs on albums like The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963) and Let My Children Hear Music (1971). Unfortunately, by 1954 the leader had yet to form a working unit, and while the horns hold their own, the group as a whole doesn't maintain the focus that characterized Mingus' later successes.

Disc two, a trio session from 1957 on Jubilee, finds Mingus and his musical soulmate Dannie Richmond in the company of the brilliant, underappreciated pianist Hampton Hawes. Mingus quietly plucks the melody to "Tea for Two behind Hawes, who interprets Johnny Mercer's "Laura with the wit and grace of touch of a true master, before turning it over to Mingus, whose languid lines hang in the air like wisps of smoke over Hawes' bell-like accompaniment. On "Summertime, Mingus' avant gardism is on full display. Richmond's tambourine is joined by a jarring bass ostinato before Hawes enters, playing the melody in urgent octaves. Richmond solos, followed by Mingus, whose bent notes and percussive effects are halted in mid-flight when Hawes strums the final haunting chord on the piano's strings.

Track Listing: CD1: What is This Thing Called Love; Minor Intrusions; Spur of the Moment; Thrice Upon a Theme; Four Hands; Stormy Weather. CD2: Laura; Hamp's New Blues; Summertime; Dizzy Moods; Yesterdays; Back Home Blues; I Can't Get Started.

Personnel: Charles Mingus: bass, piano; Thad Jones: trumpet; John LaPorta: alto saxophone; Teo Macero: tenor and baritone saxophone; Jackson Wiley: cello; Clem DeRosa: drums; Hampton Hawes: piano; Dannie Richmond: drums.

Title: Thrice Upon a Theme | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: AIM Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Bright Yellow with Bass CD/LP/Track Review Bright Yellow with Bass
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "Juxtaposition" CD/LP/Track Review Juxtaposition
by David A. Orthmann
Published: March 9, 2017
Read "Mission Cimbalom" CD/LP/Track Review Mission Cimbalom
by Geannine Reid
Published: September 7, 2017
Read "The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "Groovin'" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin'
by Jeff Winbush
Published: November 2, 2016
Read "My Head is Listening" CD/LP/Track Review My Head is Listening
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 2, 2017
Read "Alameda Gardens" CD/LP/Track Review Alameda Gardens
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 22, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.