A ringside seat for memorable Mingus live show recordings.
Jazz fans are being spoiled right now. Recently we’ve seen the discovery of ‘lost’ recordings from Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and now, a previously unheard recording from another giant of the genre across five discs.
This live recording from a week-long residency in 1973 captures Mingus’ quintet turning in robust extended performances of scorching material that includes some of the revered compositions that established him as an innovative voice in the 1950s. His appearance at Detroit’s Strata Concert Gallery came between gigs by Keith Jarrett’s quartet and Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi outfit. Compared to that exotic amalgam it might be supposed that Mingus’ brand of combative post-bop seemed backward-looking. However, through this intimate recording, we are given a ringside seat as Mingus more than holds his own against the new generation of players. Possessing a restless, timeless quality, Joni Mitchell nailed it when she spoke glowingly of Mingus’ work and the era from which it first emerged: “Music like this has more power than a decade in it.”
Pivoting between jagged outbursts, sudden double-time accelerations or thrilling turns into harmonically detailed themes with pin-sharp accuracy, the quintet embody the discipline that was part and parcel to Mingus’ rigorous approach. Though it’s stripped back, they forcefully convey the rambunctious spirit woven into his writing for larger ensembles.
Don Pullen’s piano simmers against drummer Roy Brook’s sharp responses, frequently swirling into floating clusters and spiky shards that conjure a fugue state of expressiveness which the man himself anchors to the irresistible tempo. Joe Gardner’s effusive trumpet crackles with joy, adding the contrasting light to the dark rumblings of John Stubblefield’s tenor sax, showcasing great if overlooked players of passion. Overflowing with wild, fresh takes and two tracks foreshadowing their studio debut, this is a major addition to Mingus’ already substantial legacy.