Friday, September 18, 2009

Charles Mingus: The Best Of The Great

Charles Mingus
(bass, b. 1922 - d. 1979)

While the albums I discussed this week all represent the wider array of thinking this great composer and bass player encompassed, I thought that if this was a bit too much for some to bite into perhaps maybe a few suggestions of just the nuggets would be in order. It's hard to find a solid Charles Mingus compilation like for Miles, Monk, Ellington, Armstrong and more obscurely, Rashaan Roland Kirk. But there are a few that will fit the bill and at least help you understand the music and hopefully you can investigate more titles further afterwards.

The obvious one would be Thirteen Pictures: The Charles Mingus Anthology (Rhino Records) which covers pretty much everything you need from early works for Bethlehem, Savoy, Columbia , Impulse and Atlantic plus a few choice live cuts. It's three CDs but worth the money.

The other would be The Very Best of Charles Mingus (Atlantic Records). This is a single disc which covers the Atlantic years but don't think this was strictly the best period. I would say it is for the adventurousness of the composer but not for the thickness. For that I would suggest the Impulse and the Columbia years if you are just getting into Charles Mingus. I think both compilations cover the major material but if you really really want to dig more I highly suggest some of albums discussed this week in addition to the following:

1) The Complete Savoy and Period Masters (Fresh Sounds)
2) Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic)
3) Tijuana Moods (RCA)
4) Mingus Three/Trio (Blue Note)
5) Mingus Dynasty (Columbia)
6) Charles Mingus Presents Mingus (Atlantic)
7) The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady (Impulse)
8) Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse)
9) Mingus Plays Piano (Impulse)
10) In Paris - The Complete America Session (Sunnyside)

I hope our journey into Mingus was an interesting one for you. If you end up listening to any of these please let me know what you think. I can't again say how much I recommend you buy Beneath The Underdog while you listen any of these CDs. The book reads like a story of a soul reaching for the answer but never truly finding it. It's been criticized for not containing much about music but I feel that's what makes this an even better read. Its about a glimpse of a life and how the music was shaped.

I hope you enjoy the complexed journey of this enigma who turned music and composition on its head during the 60s and foreshadowed a lot of the avant garde like a prophet. This is pure genius. This is Charles Mingus.

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