Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Aug. 17, 2007
Charlie MingusTijuana Moods (RCA Victor/Legacy)
Charles Mingus SextetCornell 1964 (Blue Note)
Charles MingusMusic Written for Monterey 1965 Not Heard... Played in Its Entirety at UCLA (Mingus Music/Sunnyside)
This trio of new releases from revolutionary bassist/composer/bandleader Charles Mingus spotlights three different bands and three different periods in his remarkably fertile career. Tijuana Moods, recorded in 1957 with a stellar septet, comes loaded with Latin trappings, bluesy intonations, a rhythmic ferocity, and Ellingtonian sophistication that characterize Mingus' most memorable work. The exhilarating "Ysabel's Table Dance," replete with castanets, boasts all these traits in spades. Meanwhile, the previously unreleased live 2-CD sextet date, Cornell 1964, features the incomparable Eric Dolphy shortly before his untimely death. This was arguably Mingus' preeminent band, with superlative pianist Jaki Byard, sax man Clifford Jordan, and trumpeter Johnny Coles, who, along with Dolphy, get plenty of room to stretch out on Mingus gems like "Fables of Faubus," "So Long Eric," and the beautifully Dukish "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk." The sound quality isn't pristine, but the music shines. The nonessential but sometimes daring UCLA 1965 is a loose, fractious, politically minded, jazz-workshop-type octet affair. Eighteen months after Cornell, the musicians and the music have all changed. The live 2-CD set has its moments, as on "Don't Let It Happen Here," but might be strictly for Mingus diehards.