This live date, recorded January 16, 1959 at Nonagon Art Gallery in New York City features John Handy on alto sax, Booker Ervin on tenor sax, Richard Wyands on piano, Dannie Richmond on drums, and Charles Mingus on bass. It's a chance to hear Mingus the bassist and Mingus the leader in action with a small group; the recording quality is excellent.
In 1960 bassist Charles Mingus helped to organize an alternative Newport Jazz Festival in protest of Newport's conservative and increasingly commercial booking policy. The music on this LP (which has been reissued on CD) features some of the musicians who participated in Mingus's worthy if short-lived venture. Trumpeter Roy Eldridge performs three numbers with pianist Tommy Flanagan, Mingus and drummer Jo Jones; of greatest interest is "Mysterious Blues" for it adds trombonist Jimmy Knepper and the unique altoist Eric Dolphy successfully to the group. The other selections match up drummers Max Roach and Jo Jones with Roach's quintet (featuring trumpeter Booker Little) on "Cliff Walk" and feature singer Abbey Lincoln on "Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do."
Charles Mingus' debut for Columbia, Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist's talents and probably the best reference point for beginners. While there's also a strong case for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as his best work overall, it lacks Ah Um's immediate accessibility and brilliantly sculpted individual tunes. Mingus' compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um.
This is an LP reissue of a set that was originally titled Pre Bird because it features some of the advanced originals that Charles Mingus wrote prior to hearing Charlie Parker. The bassist leads an undisciplined but colorful 25-piece orchestra on three titles including an Eric Dolphy feature on "Bemonable Lady" while the other five tracks are by a ten-piece (including two pianos) band; Lorraine Cousins sings "Eclipse" and "Weird Nightmare." It's an interesting set of typically unconventional music by Mingus.
Most often heard in large ensembles and rarely in a trio context, Charles Mingus joined forces with pianist Hampton Hawes for this 1957 studio date. It features four standards, two originals by the bassist, and a jam by the group credited to Hawes. While there's nothing particularly arresting or startling about the date, the relationship between the two ostensible co-leaders is a good case study in group dynamics when deference between two strong-willed individualists turns into a certain amount of compromise.