1955, Music

Jazzical Moods, Vol. 1 (1955) by Charles Mingus

This is a 10-inch album from back when those were still a thing. The compilation I have doesn’t include its sequel (Vol. 2), which has been combined with it on an LP in 1957, though I think that LP dropped a couple tracks from both and its sequel. (I mention this because I believe it was teh same session and it would be nice to hear the whole thing, given how short this is.)

Right from the outset Mingus is doing things differently – taking a jazz standard from the ’20s and both honouring jazz tradition and adding musical ideas to it that virtually nobody else in the bop world was thinking about at the time. The cover is just great.

I’m not sure most of Mingus’ originals are quite there yet, though you can hear the early germs of many Mingus tropes that would pop up throughout his career (such as the swooning). I’m not a good evaluator of the quality of a “modern” jazz composition – I can’t play music and I’d argue I’ve still not listened to enough of them to really know makes a piece important from a construction standpoint – but it does seem to my ears as though maybe Mingus’ abilities as an arranger were already pretty much there but he had yet to write anything as compelling as “Pithecanthropus Erectus” or what have you.

“Minor Intrusion” does stand out among the three for both being the most ambitious (or, at least, the longest) and for being the most compelling to my ears, and the closest to the things he would do in his prime.

For me, though, the arrangements are compelling enough. I love Mingus’ music enough to love even early, primitive Mingus and this music doesn’t feel all that primitive to me. If you can ignore the pretense of the title, it feels very much like someone beginning to use ideas from the “classical” world to reinvigorate traditional jazz within the bop context. And honestly there weren’t a lot of people doing that at the time (that I’m aware of). I mean, this is 1954.


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