Customer Reviews: Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1956-1961)
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VINE VOICEon July 22, 2005
The decade from 1956 to 1966 was a period of great discovery, advancement and codification of the music of Charles Mingus. During this time period, his music developed its uniqueness, its edge, that gospel-meets-hard bop with a splash of stride and a hint of free jazz. So many of his masterpieces were recorded during this time period, and his output is pretty much universally of extraordinarily high quality. In 1956, Mingus signed a contract with Atlantic Records, and over the next five years recorded enough material for five studio albums and one brilliant live album as well as finding the time to contribute as a sideman to a Teddy Charles record. This set collects all of that material together with an interview by Nesuhi Ertegun.

The studio records are all pretty much essential-- "Pithecanthropus Erectus", generally regarded as his first masterpiece, opens the set. The band for the session includes alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and pianist Mal Waldron, and finds Mingus' music developing that sort of classical/third stream influence thats been so prevelent to create tunes filled with odd rhythms, aggressive tempo shifts, and fantastic soloing. The title track is one of his best loved pieces, but the entire album is essential.

The album's followup, "The Clown" in not quite as good but no less essential. The first of many Mingus albums to include drummer Dannie Richmond, Mingus is at his most diverse-- taking on ironic comedy (the title track), the blues ("Blue Cee"), Charlie Parker ("Reincarnation of a Love Bird") and his own ferocious blend of jazz, gospel and ethnic musics ("Haitian Fight Song"). The recording is augmented by two extra tracks (which eventually ended up being released as half of "Tonight At Noon"), the somewhat extraneous "Passions of a Woman Loved" and the totally inexplicible "Tonight At Noon". Showing off Mingus' strength as a composer, it races at breakneck speed, changes direction, and makes your head spin through its fractured lines while still holding together brilliantly.

"Blues and Roots" finds Mingus in a different mood, featuring a nonet with four reeds and two trombones, Mingus explores his heritage as a musician, taking on gospel ("E's Flat Ah's Flat Too"), Dixie (standout "My Jelly Roll Soul"), and the blues ("Cryin' Blues") while still managing to sneak in a piece so unique as to defy categorization ("Tensions"). Additionally on this collection, the record is augmented by four alternate tkaes, finding the songs at times embryonic ("My Jelly Roll Soul") and at times just not quite as good.

The final Atlantic studio album during this tenure, "Oh Yeah", is one of the most unique in Mingus' catalog. Featuring Mingus on piano and vocals, most of the vocal numbers are blues shouts that are amusing but fairly unessential ("Devil Woman", "Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb On Me") and there's a looseness to the music that weakens it. Still, its nice to hear Roland Kirk guesting with Mingus, and it includes three extra tracks (the second half of "Tonight At Noon") including the first and in many ways best reading of Mingus' "Peggy's Blue Skylight", a lovely feature for Kirk on manzello.

Often in boxed sets, I find live albums to be sort of an extra, but "Mingus at Antibes" could never be thought in such a fashion. Finding Mingus experimenting with free jazz band arrangements and structures, he works without a piano player with several extended performances where reedmen Eric Dolply (in particular) and Booker Ervin as well as trumpeter Ted Curson really cut loose with liquid, fluid lines and powerful improvisations over just the rhythm section of Mingus and Richmond. And just in case an hour of ferocious improv through Mingus originals ("Better Git Hit In Your Soul", the underplayed "What Love?", featuring a brilliant dialog between Mingus and Dolphy, the latter on bass clarinet) wasn't enough, Bud Powell joins the band on encore "I'll Remember April", a superb performance worth the cost of the boxed set by itself.

Mingus' date with Teddy Charles is more of a curiosity than anything else. The music feels pretty uninspired and is at times frustrating-- Mingus is just starting to get cooking on "Just One of Those Things" when it starts to fade out. Similarly, the interview, while interesting, really isn't what anyoen is after with this set, but its a nice-to-have that you'll play once or twice.

The set comes in a large slip cover with two hardcover books-- one contains the six CDs, each housed in their own carboard sleeve, the other contains lengthy liner notes with essays by Sue Mingus, producer Joel Dorn, engineer Tom Dowd, and music historians including a track-by-track analysis. It also features reproductions of the original liner notes from the LP issues of these recordings.

If you're coming into Mingus, I'd suggest purchasing this set. At some point, you'll probably want it (although all the material barring the interview is available separately). If you're a Mingus fan and don't have some of these albums, this is definitely worth the investment. Highly recommended.
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on April 24, 2000
This substantial 6CDset collects all of Mingus' recording on the Atlantic label. The first 5CDs contain all the material on the following LPs Pithecanthropus Erectus, The Clown, Blues & Roots, Oh Yeah, Tonight at Noon and Mingus at Antibes, as well as a few alternate takes. Most of these albums belong in any serious jazz collection and this box set is a great way to aquire them all. All the material is grouped in chronological order by recording session and more or less follows the original LP listings. The sicth CD is devoted to a interview of Mingus by Nesuhi Ertegun. Most people will only need to listen to this once. As usual , Rhino records has packaged everything nicely with the box contains two hardbound books. the first book holds all the CDs in sleeves while the second book has all the track information, some interesting essays on Mingus and the original liner notes. It is a little long but makes good reading. While this is a great Mingus set, it is by no means complete. I would advise serious jazz fans to also get the columbia 1959 recordings which includes the classic Mingus Ah Um
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on December 28, 2002
This is very intense, unique jazz and all of it is pretty much classic stuff. If you're not familiar with Mingus, try Mingus Ah Um first, its a big chunk of great music crammed on one disk (with no alternative takes!). Mingus also recorded for Columbia, RCA, Bethlehem and Candid during this time period so there are cheaper ways to explore the Mingus muse to find out if he is your cup of tea (hey- get them out of the library!). If it is still too expensive, Blues and Roots and Live at Antibes (both on this box set) are dynamite albums worth having (IF you like Mingus). Needless to say, if you're a Mingus fan you don't need to read this review! Anyway, music aside, the box is beuatifully designed with a sturdy book full of good photos and info and the disks in a neat album resembling those old ones that 78's came in (hence the origin of the name "album"). The interview with Eregun is fascinating and I could listen to it more often than Jean Shepard doing "The Clown". The original engineering by Tom Dowd was superb and the sound on these disks is great. Hope this was some help?
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on August 1, 2001
The more I listen to this set, the more I like it. Basically, this set is a collection of five Atlantic albums with only a few bonus tracks. If you already own the albums, there's probably little reason for purchasing this set. However, if not, or if you're new to Mingus, this is a great place to start.
The last disc, interviews with Mingus, is fairly interesting to listen to once.
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on January 28, 2000
If you love jazz, or if you just love true passion and freedom, then Mingus is the man for you. And there isn't a better set of Mingus music out there than this. Extraordinary, simply extraordinary. While never losing the basic swing and pulse of the blues, this music ranges from homages to Duke Ellington (Mingus' largest influence) and Jelly Roll Morton to investigations of the then-current Ornette Coleman 'free jazz' movement. Mingus was basically writing the soundtrack and screenplay to a musical film noir with a plot involving love, jealousy, racial violence, beauty, and reconciliation. Along the way, he expresses a vision of human evolution in music and did some beat/jazz fusion. Did I mention that these albums swing like crazy?
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on September 18, 2014
A beautiful collection. The tracks themselves are high quality and represent some of Mingus' better work, tough if you've heard his name you probably already own some of them. The booklet included is quite substantial and has some pretty interesting musical history.

The last disc is an interview with Mingus about the content of one of the included albums, which runs an hour and fifteen minutes, and is quite classic, meandering but incisive.

For a fan, a very worthwhile purchase.
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on January 23, 2006
This is the most elegant, beautifully produced boxed set I have ever seen. The 120 page hard cover book is lavishly illustrated and rich with high-quality photographs and essays. The 6 discs have their own, very slick book with individual sleeves. Really a high end presentation. The music itself is wonderfully diverse, covering must-have Mingus masterpiece albums - Pithecanthropus Erectus, The Clown, Blues and Roots, Oh Yeah, and Mingus at Antibes.

Considering the amount of great music this compilation contains, it's actually a buy. While the music is uniformly wonderful, I am particularly fond of disc 3, which features a nonet, disc 5, because Mingus and Kirk is a match made in heaven, and disc 3 - live at Antibes. The Anitibes concert is a real take-no-prisoners affair, everybody's working up a sweat. There is some truly astounding interplay between Dolphy, Ervin, Richmond, and of course, the maestro - there's even a celebrity cameo by Bud Powell. I expected the Ertegun interview to be a throwaway but found it very engaging and interesting - this is precisely the kind of added tidbit one expects to receive when going the full distance and purchasing a boxed set. Couldn't be better.
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on August 26, 1999
A masterpiecce of music from THE monster bassist. Full of colors and textures. Listen to Mingus mumble to himself and yell at his musicians! This is fat and rich jazz unlike anything else. The best period from Mingus' career all in one convenient box! Eric Dolphy never played better than when he was with Mingus. If you don't like this, you don't like ice cream (or oxygen).
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on May 14, 1999
contains all mingus'surviving atlantic material. it has the album that made me a jazz fan(pithecanthropus erectus) and other great stuff with knowledgable writers putting in good essays.the only sad thing is the unreleased material that we'll never get to hear due to the atlantic records tape storage facility fire which destroyed all their 1948-1969 session master tapes,the only surviving masters are the album and single mixdown masters.i think it's one american music's greatest losses.
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on December 26, 1999
This box can be pretty overwhelming at first, but the incredible content is worth it. i could have done without the last four songs on the first cd (they aren't from a mingus session), and the sixth disc is interesting, but not essential. if you love mingus, this is the one to get.
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