Controlled chaos never sounded so good…
Charles Mingus – The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s – Resonance Records HLP-9063 – 180 gm audiophile 3 LP gate fold- limited to 5000 pressings- 1972 – ****1/2
Available on Record Store Day (April 23, 2022)
(Charles Mingus – bass; Jon Faddis – trumpet; Charles McPherson – alto sax; Bobby Jones – tenor sax, clarinet; John Foster – piano; Roy Brooks – drums, musical saw)
Another case solved by the “jazz detective,” Zev Feldman, of Resonance Records. Over the years, Zev, has unearthed quite a volume of previously unreleased material (largely from European dates) to entice jazz lovers. For the latest upcoming Record Store Day, April 23rd, our latest treat from Feldman is two and half hours of the Charles Mingus Sextet, from the iconic Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London recorded in mid August, 1972.
It was the end of Mingus’ tour in Europe and the group was well seasoned. The club set up a mobile recording truck outside the club using eight track tape. Mingus was on the Columbia Records label at the time, and by 1973, Columbia had dropped most of their jazz artists, except for Miles Davis, so that may be a reason that this material never saw the light of day until now.
At the time, Charles had emerged from a period of inactivity. Both pianist, Jaki Byard and long time drummer, Dannie Richmond, had left, and were replaced by John Foster on piano, and Roy Brooks on drums. For the European tour, 19 year old trumpeter, Jon Faddis (a protege of Dizzy Gillespie) was added, along with multi-reed player, Bobby Jones. Only alto saxist, Charles McPherson remained from previous groups.
McPherson, in interviews, has described Mingus’ music as “organized chaos,” which is an apt description. It is both spontaneous, and well thought out at the same time. Mixing swing and avant garde with a healthy dose of blues, might be another description that fits.
The nine tracks on the three 180 gm audiophile LPs have been remastered by Bernie Grundman, and the limited edition of 5000 copies (HQ-180) are pressed by RTI. The mix is clean, and the acoustics highlight the sextet’s power and range. In addition there is a 16 page gate fold size liner with photos, and an essay by jazz historian (and Mingus biographer), Brian Priestley. There is also a 1972 transcribed interview with Mingus and McPherson, as well as current interviews from bassists, Christian McBride and Eddie Gomez. Writer, Fran Lebowitz, shares some witty memories of her time spent with Mingus and his wife, Sue.
Charles had a very volatile personality, going from zero to 120 and back in record time. His turnover of band members is legendary. This particular group largely disbanded in short order, shortly after this gig and tour ended. What is incredible is that you would never know that there was any internal friction from listening to the incredible music that these LPs present. The arrangements are both tight, yet freely “open” at times. The constant is free swinging jazz, going from bluesy horns to frenetic blowing and madcap go-for-the jugular “controlled chaos.”
Charles was the ring master, fully in control, and likely a taskmaster. The nine tracks are all mostly over 20 minutes, with a few approaching a half hour. This provides plenty of room for solos and free improvisation. The true discovery at that time was nineteen year old trumpeter, Jon Faddis. Now a long term veteran at age 68, Jon was mature beyond his years in 1972, able to handle Mingus’ complex charts with ease. His mastery of the trumpet, from low to high register is remarkable, comparable to a young Lee Morgan.
Bobby Jones, on both tenor sax and clarinet is a worthy mate to Charles McPherson. Together on the ensemble sections, they blend well. Bobby’s clarinet adds a new dimension to the group and on the Dixieland influenced “Pops (AKA: When the Saints Go Marching In”), a sly Mingus tribute to Louis Armstrong, Jones’ clarinet takes us to NOLA land.
There are many other highlights to praise. “Noddin’ Ya Head Blues” has a masterful opening Mingus bass solo, and saucy vocals from pianist, John Foster, based on lyrics by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. Drummer, Roy Brooks, adds a “haunted house” vibe with his musical “saw.”
Keeping a focus on the blues again is “Mind Readers Convention in Milano,” a complex piece, with lots of “tension,” and open expression. The collective improvisation, with solos and ensemble playing covers the gamut of Mingus’ magic arrangements, so unique.
On “The Man Who Never Sleeps,” a 24 bar ballad, it shows the tender side of Charles, with lyrical choruses from the saxophones. The final track, a short reading of “Air Mail Special,” goes up and down the ladder at a frantic pace.
There is so much to recommend here from a short lived Mingus group. The Ronnie Scott’s audience had to love their opportunity to have the “Mingus experience.” Now we can have that opportunity in exquisite packaging. Don’t pass up the chance before this set sells out by the end of the April 23rd Record Store Day sale…
Introduction (1:01), Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues (part 1)- 25:18
Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues (part 2) 5:26; Noddin’ Ya Head Blues (19:52)
Mind Readers’ Convention in Milano (AKA Number 29) 29:57; Ko Ko (Theme) 0:45
Fables of Faubus (part 1) 21:52
Fables of Faubus (part 2) 13:10; Pops (AKA: When the Saints Go Marching In) 7:17
The Man Who Never Sleeps 18:51; Air Mail Special 2:02