Jazz at 100 Hour 70: Charles Mingus in the 1960s

Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus completed the 1950s with an astonishing series of releases in 1959 – Blues and Roots, followed by Mingus Ah Um and finally, Mingus Dynasty. He kept up this pace for several years culminating in 1963 with Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus and his masterwork, The Black Saint and The Sinner Woman. We have some live recordings from 1964 and 1965, but otherwise he went silent for the rest of the decade. The early 1960s recordings of Charles Mingus with Eric Dolphy and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in this hour of Jazz at 100.

“More than any other jazz composer of his generation, he was willing—determined—to confront his fears and force his musicians to confront theirs. He was dogmatic, pensive, demagogic, irreverent, furious, nostalgic: a far cry from the cool and collected brainy music rife in jazz in the ’50s, but nowhere near as anarchic as the orphaned dissidents of the shrieking ’60s. He is the best example we have of disciplined turmoil.” – Gary Giddins

Politics, Humor, Dolphy and Kirk.
“In the late ’50s, Mingus loomed over jazz, personifying the period’s modernism and confessionalism. “I am about me” was the theme of his numerous public statements. With so much emotion so freely conveyed, he was soon characterized as angry and unpredictable, and even his humorous works were interpreted with wrinkled brow…” – Gary Giddins

‘Mingus’s comments turned political after 1957, when President Eisenhower reluctantly sent federal troops to force Arkansas governor Orville Faubus to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. In 1959, Mingus recorded ‘Fables of Faubus,’ a piece that satirizes Faubus with its melodically whimsical theme. Columbia Records, however, refused to let him sing his lyric, which he recorded for a smaller label (Candid) the following year, proclaiming Faubus ‘ridiculous’ and ‘a fool’” – Gary Giddins & Scott DeVeaux

Original Faubus Fables. Charles Mingus Quartet
(Ted Curson-tp, Eric Dolphy-as/bcl, Charles Mingus-b/voc, Dannie Richmond-d). From Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. 10/20/1960

Eat That Chicken. Charles Mingus Sextet
(Jimmy Knepper-tb, Booker Ervin-ts. Roland Kirk-ts/mzo/str/siren/fl, Charles Mingus (p/voc), Doug Watkins-b, Dannie Richmond-d). From Oh Yeah. 11/6/1961
“While with Mingus, [Rahsaan Roland] Kirk invigorated the 1961 Oh Yeah release with a handful of penetrating solos, including an extraordinary “old-timey” outing on ‘Eat That Chicken.’” – Ted Gioia

Charles Mingus Bass Player.
“His solo introduction to ‘Haitian Fight Song’ [from 1955] is potent and pleading, and even the vamp with which it concludes, rising and lowering in dynamics, suggests a new tonal virtuosity, as does the invincible ostinato on ‘Prayer for Passive Resistance.’ Mingus avoided the purity of sound passed from Jimmy Blanton to Ray Brown, preferring to make each note reverberate as though the string had snapped against the wood. In this sense, there was a link between his peerless technique and the expressive slap-style bassists of Pops Foster’s generation. Sometimes he enjoyed reviving Foster’s style with affectionate parodies, and when he made the change from a two-beat to his own driving four/four, as he does on ‘Jelly Roll,’ the point was always the continuity of tradition and never modernistic put-down.” – Gary Giddins

Prayer For Passive Resistance. Charles Mingus Nonet
(Ted Curson-tp, Jimmy Knepper-tb, Eric Dolphy-as/bcl/fl, Booker Ervin-ts, Joe Farrell-ts. Yusef Lateef-ts/fl, Roland Hanna-p, Charles Mingus-b, Dannie Richmond-d). From Mingus Revisited. 5/25/1960

Jelly Roll. Charles Mingus Septet
(Jimmy Knepper-tb, John Handy-as/cl, Booker Ervin-ts, Curtis Porter-ts/as, Horace Parlan-p, Charles Mingus-b, Dannie Richmond-d). From Mingus Ah Um. 5/5/1959

Mingus and Ellington.
“Mingus revered Duke Ellington, with whom he shared the knack for composing vivid musical portraits of musicians, friends, and places—they were, in fact, the most autobiographical of composers—and the determination not to be limited by fads and categories. Only Mingus rivaled Ellington’s compositional variety in the jazz tradition…” – Gary Giddins

Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me. Charles Mingus Nonet
(Ted Curson-tp, Jimmy Knepper-tb, Eric Dolphy-as/bcl/fl, Booker Ervin-ts, Joe Farrell-ts. Yusef Lateef-ts/fl, Roland Hanna-p, Charles Mingus-b, Dannie Richmond-d). From Mingus Revisited. 5/25/1960

Mood Indigo. Charles Mingus Orchestra
(Eddie Preston-tp, Richard Williams-tp. Britt Woodman-tb, Don Butterfield-tu, Dick Hafer-fl/cl/ts, Jerome Richardson-fl/ss/bs, Eric Dolphy-as/fl, Booker Ervin-ts, Jaki Byard-p, Charles Mingus-b/voc, Walter Perkins-d). From Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus. 9/30/1963

The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady.
“Almost everything about Black Saint is distinctive: the long form, the use of dubbing, the liner-note by Mingus’s psychiatrist… Ellingtonian in ambition and scope, and in the disposition of horns, the piece has a majestic, dancing presence… There is evidence that Mingus’s desire to make a single continuous performance (and it should be remembered that even Ellington’s large-scale compositions were relatively brief) failed to meet favour with label executives; but there is an underlying logic even to the separate tracks which makes it difficult to separate them other than for the convenience of track listing. It remains one of the most significant jazz performances of that decade and one of the greatest jazz records of all time, a splendid artefact that doesn’t fail to reveal the circumstances of its creation, a kind of meta-text of modern improvisation.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Solo Dancer (Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney). Charles Mingus Orchestra
(Rolf Ericson-tp, Richard Williams-tp, Quentin Jackson-tb, Don Butterfield-cbtb/tu, Jerome Richardson-fl/ss/bars, Dick Hafer-fl/ts. Charlie Mariano-as, Jaki Byard-p, Jay Barliner-g, Charles Mingus-b/p, Dannie Richmond-d). From The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. 1/20/1963

Duet Solo Dancers (Hearts’ Beat And Shades in Physical Embraces). Charles Mingus Orchestra
(Rolf Ericson-tp, Richard Williams-tp, Quentin Jackson-tb, Don Butterfield-cbtb/tu, Jerome Richardson-fl/ss/bars, Dick Hafer-fl/ts. Charlie Mariano-as, Jaki Byard-p, Jay Barliner-g, Charles Mingus-b/p, Dannie Richmond-d). From The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. 1/20/1963

“If Mingus didn’t actually introduce fear and trembling into jazz, he was its most persistently apocalyptic voice. He could communicate joy as generously as any practitioner of what is generally considered a joyous music, but he often asked us to run the gauntlet with him before merging triumphantly on the mountaintop. The records affirm the diversity and courage of his music, its relentless honesty and prophetic impact, its masterpieces; and they show that no composer-bandleader-instrumentalist since Ellington encompassed more of jazz’s accomplishment and promise. Mingus was the black-music experience in the United States—in its hybridization, its questing after form, its improvisation, competitiveness, impertinence, outrage, intellectualization, joy, emotionalism, bitterness, comedy, parody, and frustration.” – Gary Giddins

From his first recordings with Chico Hamilton in 1958 until his unnecessary death in 1964, Eric Dolphy was limited to only six years in which to record the music that has defined his extraordinary legacy. Previously, in this series, we have heard from Dolphy’s great 1960 recording, Far Cry. The final three years of this story includes his highly productive association with Booker Little, before the young trumpeter’s premature death at 23 in 1961. The last recordings of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little in the next hour of Jazz at 100.

Recordings.
Charles Mingus. Charles Mingus presents Charles Mingus. Candid CJM 8005
Charles Mingus. Oh Yeah. Atlantic LP 1377
Charles Mingus. Mingus Revisited. Mercury MG 20627
Charles Mingus. Mingus Ah Um. Columbia CS 8171
Charles Mingus. Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus. Impulse A 54
Charles Mingus. The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. Impulse A 35

Resources.
Giddins, Gary. 2004. Weather Bird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second Century. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 49. Charles Mingus (Bigger Than Death)
Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 13. Jazz Composition in the 1950s
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Charles Mingus. Charles Mingus presents Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus. The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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