1955, 1956, Music

Mingus at the Bohemia (1956)

I miswrote when I stated that The Charles Mingus Quintet & Max Roach was the first of the two parts of this concert released. It is sequenced first on the compilation I am listening to, but it was this record that was released first (years earlier) as far as I can tell. Perhaps that’s one of the things that explains the huge disparity in terms of critical reaction between the two recordings, which are of the exact same show (albeit two different parts).

But the other thing might just be the material. Mingus’ two originals  are just stellar pieces. I’ve heard “Work Song” before I believe but “Jump Monk” is new to me and it is just awesome. It seels me on this being the “better album” pretty much immediately.

The one Roach appearance in this half of the concert – out of a total of something like three for the entire night – is considered by many to be the highlight of the set. I have no idea how frequently bass and drum tracks had been performed before, but I can see why this was seen as a big deal. It’s not my favourite thing here simply because my favourite thing about Mingus is his horn parts. But I think I get why people care.

I’ve never been great with remembering my standards but it is far more true now, as the last few years I’ve listened to very little jazz, especially golden age jazz. So, as with the other concert, I can’t necessarily comment on the quality of their interpretations of these standards, only to say that I enjoy their straight versions of two of them. The crazy medley of two others is on another level for me, and representative of so much about what makes Mingus great, in particular his polyphonic ability that’s basically unparalleled in jazz.

Now that I know the two albums are from the same show I would still like to hear the whole show. But listening to this one a little more consciously as the original curated “highlights” of that show it’s pretty clear why this record has been considered the better one for all this time. It does feel like the other record contains, in essence, the b-sides.


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