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Charles Mingus is regarded as one of the truest of the jazz greats and legends. Widely considered to be the greatest bass players of all times, Mosaic Records celebrated his historic 90th birthday anniversary with a 7 CD set that contains previously unheard material from the legend. Entitled “The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964 -1965″, jazz afficionados are in for the treat of a lifetime.
Playing with long time companions Jaki Byard (piano), Johnny Coles (trumpet), Eric Dolphy (alto sax, bass clarinet, and flute), Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet), Clifford Jordan (tenor Sax), Charles McPherson (alto sax) and Dannie Richmond (drums), Mingus does not cease to amaze. The recording covers Mingus at one of his most fertile periods as a artist, as well as his last recording with friend and fellow musician Eric Dolphy. The first two CDs are the stored unreleased music from The Jazz Workshop concerts of 1964-65 from several sites around the world and they are all live. That being said, let us talk about the music in this collection.
I am a bass lover and it’s hard for me to be completely unbiased, especially with a master on this level, but here’s my best attempt: I more than loved this collection. It is the best I have heard of music from this time period by Mingus. All live cuts is an incredible bonus with many comments from Mingus as he explains why he wrote this or renamed that or decided to play something a certain way, which lends an intimacy to the concerts, and Mingus and company does the rest while you sit back and just enjoy.
Charles Mingus plays the bass like a horn player at times. Leading the band from the bass position was almost certainly a model for other new and extraordinary jazz artists such as the wildly popular contemporary Esperanza Spalding. He should also be given his due credit for the innovations he brought to the table. This collection, though a bit more expensive than a single CD set, is worth every penny and much more. If you don’t find it a part of your jazz collection soon after reading this review, then you should probably cease and desist with any claims to being a true jazz connoisseur because it just doesn’t get any better than this.
The set starts with Jaki Byard’s composition “A.T.F.W.”, followed by “Sophisticated Lady”, an Ellington composition that is performed to perfection with Mingus’ signature style. Included is the Mingus classic “Meditations” where he plays his last recorded concert with Dolphy, though the song is renamed on this release and entitled “Praying with Eric”. This piece, being very complex in its makeup and delivery, is one of Mingus’s most innovative. For more than 20 minutes, they take you on a tremendous musical journey that is simply brilliant and stunning.. Changes in tempo, octaves, and leads, along with the synergistic interaction of musicians and instruments make this one epic. And that’s just disc 1. There are many more songs/concerts to experience and appreciate.