Mingus Dynasty – Chair in the Sky – Collectables

by | Nov 14, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Mingus Dynasty – Chair in the Sky – Collectables 7733 1980/Re-released 2006, 46:11 ****:

(John Handy, alto saxophone; Joe Farrell, tenor saxophone; Jimmy Owens, trumphet and flugelhorn; Jimmy Knepper, trombone; Don Pullen, piano; Charlie Haden, bass; Dannie Richmond, drums)

In 1979, the year of legendary bassist Charles Mingus’ death, many of his sidemen got together to form a group called the Mingus Dynasty. Their intention was to keep the music of Mingus alive and to pay tribute to the man who inspired them so much as artists. The resulting album, Chair in the Sky, has been re-released by Collectables and is a stunning testament to Mingus’ legacy.

The first thing you notice about Chair in the Sky is the awesome bass playing of Charlie Haden. Filling the shoes of Mingus on his own compositions is a tough task, but Haden plays with a stunning force and focus that centers the entire group. The album’s first track Boogie Stop Shuffle swings something fierce, with John Handy providing lyrical, harsh-at-the-edges solos and Don Pullen comping his own high notes with big, heavy low chords. The title track features gorgeous harmonics between Handy’s alto and Jimmy Owens’ flugelhorn, as well as with Handy’s alto and Joe Farrell’s tenor.

My Jelly Roll Soul, Mingus’ tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, benefits from Haden’s wash-bucket sounding bass and Dannie Richmond’s use of his tom drums, evoking a shuffling New Orleans sound. Sweet Sucker Dance is a hauntingly beautiful waltz, with Joe Farrell playing bittersweet tenor solos that rightfully stick close to the song’s almost carnivalesque melody.

With a few exceptions, most of the players on Chair in the Sky stick tight to Mingus’ original melodies and keys, avoiding show-off solos or odd key changes. Those exceptions, namely Handy’s scale-riding solo on Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, have the effect of taking away from the song’s overall mood (in Goodbye’s case, a sweet sadness) and really took me out of the song.

Overall, however, the Mingus Dynasty delivered an album that deserves to stand alongside Mingus’ other albums as not only a testament to the man’s compositional genius, but also to the incredible contribution his sidemen made to those classic works.

Tracklist:  Boogie Stop Shuffle, A Chair in the Sky, My Jelly Roll Soul, Sweet Sucker Dance, The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines, Goodbye Porkpie Hat.

– Dan Krow


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