Customer Reviews: Cornell 1964
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on July 25, 2007
Like the 2005 releases Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 (Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker), Cornell 1964 is a newly-discovered concert recording. And as with those 2005 releases, the performance just happens to be extraordinary. I'm past the two-dozen mark when it comes to buying Mingus recordings, and I think that Cornell 1964 is the most exciting Mingus music I've heard.

What a concert those lucky students were given:

"ATFW You": Jaki Byard's fleet, witty parade of Art Tatumisms and Fats Wallerisms.

"Sophisticated Lady": for bass. Mingus never stopped paying tribute to Duke Ellington.

"Fables of Faubus": A Weillian send-up of Orval Faubus, segregationist governor of Arkansas. The lyrics here are, alas, inaudible. (A sample: "Two, four, six, eight, they brainwash and teach you hate.") A very lengthy "Fables," dipping into various streams of musical Americana along the way. Here, as elsewhere, Mingus and Richmond are the most inventive bass-and-drums pairing in jazz, changing tempos and textures and thereby pushing soloists to dig deeper: the rhythm section as personal trainer.

"Orange Was the Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk": One of Mingus's most beautiful compositions, with overtones of Ellington, "Blues in the Night," and "Body and Soul."

"Take the 'A' Train": I think that it's here that everything rises to a very high level of energy. As Clifford Jordan begins his second chorus, Mingus calls to Johnny Coles and Eric Dolphy: "Join in," and the band takes off. Jordan is the great surprise on this performance and on the rest of the recording, playing with greater intensity and freedom than on the European tour recordings (or at least the ones that I've heard). And Coles, who missed much of the European tour with a stomach ulcer, is brilliant here and elsewhere. I'm only now realizing that he was an influence on Lester Bowie, one of my favorite trumpeters.

"Meditations": like "Orange," a composition in markedly different sections. Particularly powerful solos from Byard and Dolphy (bass clarinet).

"So Long Eric": Twelve-bar blues. Mingus plants the endpin of his bass in the floor, and not for the first time: "Well, we got several holes now." The tempo here is slower than on other recordings of this tune. Mingus calls to Johnny Coles: "Come on, Johnny." He calls to Jaki Byard: "By yourself," and bass and drums drop out. No problem: Byard turns into Art Tatum and Erroll Garner. It's Clifford Jordan's turn to solo: "I know you swing," says Mingus. And before Dannie Richmond's solo: "Go!"

Two encores follow, the first featuring "the only Irishman in the band," "Johnny O'Coles." (Note the concert date.) And finally, a giddy, slightly wobbly "Jitterbug Waltz," the elegant Fats Waller melody that Eric Dolphy loved to play.

For a newcomer to Mingus' music, Cornell 1964 is a perfect start: three major Mingus compositions ("Fables," "Orange," "Meditations"), some blues, some strong evidence of Mingus' reverence for his musical ancestors, and a charming novelty, all played by what many listeners regard as Mingus' greatest band.
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on November 28, 2008
This is a brilliant, magnificent, previously unreleased and recently discovered recording of Charles Mingus's greatest band - or at least one of them - playing live at Cornell University, shortly before the European tour, in March 1964.
The music is scorchingly good, endlessly inventive, full of surprises and played with a fire that only rarely makes it onto record.
The only caveat is that the remarkable sextet in question was extensively documented, performing much the same repertoire. It included Eric Dolphy - one of the supreme jazz figures of the era - on flute, alto and bass clarinet in towering form throughout on extended versions of "Fable of Faubus" and "Meditations", but the rest of the group are not far behind.
If you don't already know mid-'60s Mingus, this double CD is an excellent place to begin. The band, which also boasted Jaki Byard on piano, Johnny Coles trumpet, and Clifford Jordan, tenor, was evidently feeling euphoric that night and the sound is excellent.
And then there's Mingus himself, playing at the top of his form.
Even those who already have a row of recordings by this very ensemble may be tempted by, for example, the wild, impromptu version of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" played by Mingus for the first and last time in honour of St Patrick's Day.
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on February 24, 2008
This CD is one of those 'long lost' live jazz discs that've popped up recently. Mingus' 1964 concerts were fairly well documented, and this is another to add to the list. The CD opens up with two solos - Jaki Byard plays a solo spot, and Mingus plays a bass solo (with some soft piano in the background). These are okay, the bass isn't recorded as well as I'd like for a solo spot, but not the main point of the show. With the full band, Mingus tears up "Fables Of Faubus". It's long, but not one of those songs you wish they'd end. "Orange Was The Color..." has some very good moments, but in the second rank of this show. "Take The 'A' Train" is very good - Ellington was Mingus' favorite to cover. The second disc starts with "Meditations", which is a long complex piece, but very good. "So Long Eric" has good, but also wandering, moments. "When Irish Eyes" has a spoken intro that gets laughs (though it's hard to hear the dialogue), but the music is another second-ranker. "Jitterbug Waltz" has some great Dolphy flute, and brings things to a close. Overall, it's a very good disc. It's not as good as "Mingus At Antibes", and I've heard the 1964 Paris concert CD is better than this one.

One of the notable things is that Mingus and company are in a very good mood. During a Dannie Richmond drum solo there a waves of laughter coming from the audience. It's a shame there isn't a video that'd show why. Mingus's stage patter also gets laughs. Everyone in the band also throws in musical quotes from all over the place. In addition to jazz quotes, there are bits of children's, folk, and popular songs. This is recommended for all Mingus fans and anyone looking for a good jazz concert CD.
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on August 28, 2007
If you're already heavy into Mingus and enjoy the "April 1964" sextet you'll have to get this. The performance is inspired and joyful and everyone in the band is given ample room to contribute. Those familiar with the Town Hall date that followed in April and the European tour after that will know most of these titles and their arrangements for this group. Somewhat less familiar will be a driving version of Dukes "A-Train" and a real surprise in a cruising performance of Jitterbug waltz that gives Dolpy a chance to blow over some up tempo changes on his flute which he does very well indeed.

Sound quality is very listenable falling somewhere between the 64 Town Hall date and some of the April 64 European bootlegs. For the most part everyone is audible with only the trumpet, piano or bass being lost in the mud at times when the band is playing loudly. Little to no high frequency content overall and Meditations has some dropout, phasing and mid range "swooshing" problems at times but this becomes irrelevant since the music is so good.

One of the things this rhythm section had a strong ability to do was up the ante on an already hard swinging grove and this happens numerous times on these discs where in the middle of someone's solo Byard and Richmond will take Mingus' lead and push the groove up to the next level inspiring the soloist to do sing out and really listen to himself.

Surprisingly we only hear Dolphy on alto on "So Long Eric" during the ensemble passages and even more surprising, he doesn't solo on this piece or it was edited out (although I didn't notice an edit). Dolphy is on bass clarinet or flute for all other selections. I was also surprised at how fully formed the arrangements of these pieces were and how much liberty the group was already taking with them a month before Town Hall and the Europe tour. I was thinking they'd be a bit stiffer than what I was familiar with from three weeks later but that is not the case. A lot of these must have been played regularly at the Five Spot Café prior to this date at Cornell.

Unfortunatly this release will probably not get hyped as much as the Coltrane/Monk Carnegie Hall find a couple of years ago likely because of the cuts being so lengthy and musically dynamic in addition to this group having been heard on previous releases but this is certainly music of the same caliber.

Probably not the best choice for an introduction to Mingus but if you're already into the man's music, you'll want to pick this up.
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on May 30, 2008
There's no point in reflecting most of the sentiments already made by the other reviewers about this awesome performance, so I will stick to making a few short points and confirmations.

1.) This is indeed a very joyous Mingus during this concert. Laughing and lightheartedness is abound throughout the concert. These guys and the audience are having a blast creating and listening to some of the best music on the planet.

2.) Dolphy doesn't solo in So Long Eric! I'm not sure how common or uncommon this is as I haven't heard all the performances of this band (yet), but I do know on the wonderful Jazz Icons DVD of this lineup, Eric has his time in every performance of the song. Perhaps this is how Mingus originally envisioned the song? I mean, the song is a goodbye to Mr. Dolphy, and saying goodbye to yourself doesn't really make sense. Who knows? Because of his prominence and the fact that this CD is even listed as the Charles Mingus Sextet WITH ERIC DOLPHY, I doubt his solo would've been edited out. I sincerely hope not. Who would want an incomplete song and performance?

3.) Fables of Faubus is worth the purchase price ALONE. Amazing amazing amazing incredible amazing. Seriously. I don't even know what else to say about it.

4.) Unfortunately, Meditations suffers from some sonic inferiority. You have a lot of phasing and warping in the sound throughout the entire piece, mostly in the cymbals. But all in all, it's not too big of a deal. It's odd that only Meditations suffers this though? There isn't a hint of it in the tracks immediately before or after. The problem magically starts when Meditations starts, and ends when Meditations ends. *Shrug* What are ya gonna do?

Buy this.
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Following upon the first-time release of last year's "Mingus At UCLA '65," which afforded penetrating if uneven glimpses of the Mingus creative psyche, this latest two-disc release offers at once more satisfying music and a fuller picture of another, earlier, smaller but better Mingus ensemble--the fabled 1964 touring unit that would be recorded later in the same year in Europe. Though Dolphy understandably will always be a magnet, each of the soloists is heard to maximum advantage. Byard opens with a solo that's equal parts James P. Johnson and Art Tatum, and Mingus follows with a "Sophisticated Lady" that lives up to the epithet in the song's title; Clifford Jordan issues another wake-up call to his undeniable talent; and the elfin, enigmatic loner, Johnny Coles, rather than being MIA (as on the previously released European recording), has ample space to remind us why he was Gil Evans' favorite trumpet player after Miles. Dolphy's flute is heard to advantage on "Jitterbug Waltz"; Coles' less so on "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." The audio is better than has been reported (Richmond's drums are distant and muffled in the mix and the maelstrom gets a bit muddy during the heated ensemble passages), leaving the Mingus or Dolphy "completist" few excuses to let this one pass by.

Some listeners will find the Mingus-Richmond heated conversation on "A Train" worth the price of admission alone. The bassist simply appears unwilling to let go of the exchange, playing ascending, double-timed, octave-leaping walking bass lines that, in each case, Richmond has an equally compelling answer for. It's one of those extemporaneous outbursts of passion, discovery and excitement with which many listeners, even those not deeply into jazz, find so irresistible about the man as an eruptive, exuberant force of inspired creation recorded in the very moment of its conception. (Conception and creation are inseparable from execution and performance in the Mingus world of an art that is equally alive for listener and music-maker--like the best Monk and few others he incorporates the listener in the making of non-linear history, a timeless intimation of inscrutable beauty miraculously incarnated within a chronological instant poised between the eternal and the finite: the infinite, timeless being of the creator and the elusive moment of becoming that, once enunciated, subscribes to even as it violates the temporal conditions of its being heard at all.)

Rate "Mingus at Cornell 1964" closer to 4 1/2 stars and just behind the same Mingus group recorded in Paris on the Verve release of several years ago: "The Great Charles Mingus Concert." As welcome as Coles is on the present Blue Note recording, he's neither a deal maker nor breaker. Moreover, the 5-member Mingus "sextet" seems to go the extra mile to make up for the absence of Coles on the Paris date. The playing is more fiery, the exchanges between Dolphy and Jordan more heated and exciting, the all-around behavior of Mingus, musically and otherwise, more responsive to the crowd and occasion. Compare the exchanges between Jordan and Dolphy on "So Long, Eric" on both recordings; compare Jordan's inspired, extended solo during the later "Fables of Faubus" with the earlier one heard here. Decisive, and in favor of the Paris concert. Finally, the audio on "The Great Charles Mingus Concert," while not exactly pristine, is more "present" and clearly defined.
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on October 10, 2007
The sender is in a quick response of sending out the album.

For the album,
The hype factor was cranked up considerably in 2005 for the unearthed recording of two jazz legends: John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk's At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note). Things have cooled down a tad since that momentous release but just as exciting and equally important is Cornell 1964 featuring the Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy.
Mingus, the powerful enigmatic bassist, band-leader and composer, was as controversial as he was dynamic. Dolphy, an absolutely brilliant musician (alto sax, bass clarinet, and flute), whose short lived musical career (he died a few months after this concert in 1964) still leaves a vivid mark in jazz today. The chance to hear them together is a treat for longtime admirers and newcomers alike.

But this is more than just a meeting of two giants because we also get a chance to witness Mingus' illustrious quintet which included lesser known yet stunning musicians: Jaki Byard (piano), Johnny Coles (trumpet), Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone), and Dannie Richmond (drums). Mingus always ran a tight ship, tolerating nothing less than excellence. With this band, the musicians not only meet his criteria but also deliver some stellar performances.

The two-CD recording covers everything from Mingus' epic "Fables of Faubus," (written as a direct protest against Civil Rights injustices in 1957) to a jubilant rendition of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" as the band engages in some light hearted fun. There is an air that the vibe was stress free (in contrast to some of Mingus' engagements) and that they were clearly enjoying themselves and the receptive audience.

There are many highlights from everyone: Byard's exhaustive range on "ATFW You"--included bebop, ragtime, classical and more. Mingus' gregarious fretwork--injected with humor and an unflinching presence on "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk" as Coles' sweet muted trumpet harmonizes with Jordan's warm tenor and Dolphy's throaty bass clarinet. Each voice glows against the blues/swing melody.

They "Take The A Train" to new destinations of swing as Mingus and Richmond thrill the audience with boisterous solos. Dolphy played jazz flute like no one else, as heard on "Jitterbug Waltz," brings the recording to a satisfying conclusion. There are many bright moments on this resurrected historical document. The shadows of these players still looms today and this concert is a testament of their greatness that will hopefully endure for years to come. - By Mark F. Turner
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on June 27, 2013
The version of Fables of Faubus is fantastic. Great bass clarinet from Doplhy. It was an incredibly creative period for all of the participants with the secret weapon being the piano playing of Jaki Byard. The history of American music is encapsulated in his solos.
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on July 24, 2009
I traveled by bus to Cornell from my college in Binghamton NY to attend this concert. I had been blown away by Mingus' records since 1961, and wouldn't have missed it for the world. I was the jazz disc jockey for my small college radio station. It is one of my most indelible memories of years of listening to jazz. I can't improve on the positive comments of the other reviewers of this CD, except to say AMEN. This is not the greatest Mingus recording. There are a dozen that equal it, but you cannot go wrong by getting this CD. One "Mingus story" I want to share is that half way through the concert, Mingus started to pound the pointed leg of his bass hard into the stage, saying the stage surface was slippery and his bass was slipping. I don't know if this tactic worked, but I'm sure the marks were in the stage for quite some time. In my opinion, I find this music superior to any of the recordings made by this group in Europe a month later.
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on November 24, 2013
This is as good a document of Mingus on stage as anything that exists in the catalog (and I have several of those). For me, this ranks right up there with the legendary Paris concert that was recorded later in that tour. A must-have for Mingus and Dolphy lovers, and for lovers of jazz in general.
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