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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
This is a showcase for Mingus the bassist as well as Mingus the composer. His sound is recorded extremely well, and his technique, sense of rhythm, and improvisation are just astonishing. I've never heard his bass so well before.
He begins the title cut with a 4-bar motif that's almost as compelling as "A Love Supreme." He works this motif with virtuosity, and he is especially effective in his interplay with the pianist, Max Waldron. While some may see this as a harbinger to free jazz, it's really quite accessible, and the "wild" sounds return logically to the theme. Emotionally gratifying; it's one of his best works.
The big disappointment here is "A Foggy Day (in San Francisco)." Mingus places various urban sound effects, which "The Penguin Guide to Jazz" calls superficially jokey." To me, it's just simply annoying. The repeated taxi horn sounds, etc. are just done too often. Were it not for the overall quality of the other music, I'd take away a * from this CD. Foggy Day does feature some nice sax work (Jackie McLean, J.R. Monterose), swinging bass, and some whistle blowing a la 70's and 80's funk. (Was Parliament listening?).
"Profile of Jackie" is a brief (3:07) mood piece, McLean nicely interpolates "Chelsea Bridge" and his playing is soulful and sharp. It's a beautiful ballad with nice comping by Mingus, and Willie Jones' deft touch on drums.
Love Chant is the longest piece here (14:56) and, I think, is overlooked in the Mingus discography. There's some very progressive bass work propelling an initially slightly cool jazz/modal sound. The first third features interesting percussive effects, effective abstractions on the piano, and mellow tones on the horns. After this, the beat picks up (sometimes veering into some hard bop accents), and the horns soar above Mingus' beautiful playing. Once again, the Mingus/Waldron improvisations are excellent.
Again, this is an excellent CD, even with the somewhat overdone "Foggy Day." Not sure what they did, but it has an almost live sound to it that I loved. Brief liner notes by Nat Hentoff, and more extended notes on each cut by Mingus enhance one's appreciation of each track. Very highly recommended!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 22, 2005
"Pithecanthropus Erectus" is in the opinion of many (and rightly so), the first Charles Mingus masterpiece. It is on this record I really felt the "Mingus sound" began to coalesce-- that sort of playful jazz filtered through gospel and a big sense of humor sound he had, generously supported by a band that was more than capable of bringing his vision to life (including Jackie McLean blowing alto like he's got something to prove and pianist Mal Waldron).

The album's four tracks (about forty minutes of music) are each classics in their own right-- three Mingus originals and one Gershwin standard ("A Foggy Day"). All four feature fantastic arrangements, in particular the Gershwin piece that finds Mingus at his most inventive-- tenor sax fog horns, alto siren wails, scratching basses, slide whistles and so on. But in between these excursions is a fantastic swing and a monster bass solo. But as good as this is, its probably the title track that's best known-- a difficult, start-stop rhythmic piece with bizarre tempo changes and fierce group improvisation, its justifiably considered one of the greats in Mingus' catalog. The remaining two tracks ("Profile of Jackie" and "Love Chant") are no slouches either-- the former features a brilliant, wailing theme stated on alto, the latter starts as a rolling piano ballad before breaking into a fierce swing for the solo sections.

In all, a great album of Mingus' music. I'd start with "Mingus Ah Um", but this may be where to look next. Essential.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2001
While the musical content of this album is excellent, the mastering of this CD is, unfortunately, quite poor. The volume level of the CD is suprisingly low for a compact disk, perticulerly in light of the number of wonderfully remastered CD editions avalable for other Mingus albums on Atlantic, such as Oh Yeah!, and Blues and Roots. Pithecanthropus Erectus is a great record that sorly needs a more acceptable sonic representation than the current Atlantic edition (ATL 81456) is capable of. It would deffinitally be worth the effort of checking for a newer version of this album before purchesing this one, which is quite simply not up to par with the standerds set by other recent jazz re-issues.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2004
I'll never forget hearing this album at age 6, even for my newly forming mind it was one of the most overwhelming, strange, sometimes scary but ALWAYS interesting and compelling experiences, between the melody lines that stick in your head for days, the wit, the dynamics and everything else.

Years later, it STILL has that same effect on me, only now I can get my brain around it!

The epic length title cut is a 3-part musical depiction of the rise and fall of a fictitious species of human. It's amazing to me how Mingus and his chosen musicians were able to convey so much vivid emotion and narrative with just sounds and no visuals or words.

"A Foggy Day--" lightens the mood a bit with the musicians producing sirens, foghorns, taxi horns, groaning boats and much more, some may find it annoying but this Owl actually finds it oddly charming in this particular instance.

"Portrait of Jackie" is a very brief but very potent vehicle for Jackie McLean to spin forth his unique alto sound and beautiful melody lines.

"Love Chant" can STILL hold me in rapt attention between its insistent low-register piano figure by Mal Waldron and the horns alternating playful and somber lines, with WIllie Jones just playing his butt off

All throughout, Mingus himself asserts his simultaneously gruff and humourous muse through his bass, NOBODY sounded like him before or since.

Want a good place to start with Mingus, I highly recommend this!

Just one complaint, BRING BACK THE ORIGINAL ABSTRACT COVER ART!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2001
Charles Mingus' 1956 release, Pithecanthropus Erectus, is one of his very first great albums. Mingus had recorded with many great artists by this point, including Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Mingus had also recorded a few good albums in the early to mid fifties. However, it was Pithecanthropus Erectus that got Mingus noticed on the jazz world. This became the first album in a string of albums that would be some of the best and most important albums of the era. Although many of these albums surpassed Pithecanthropus Erectus, this albums still remains essential to the Charles Mingus catalogue. The title track is an incredible compositon that attempts to recreate the dawn of man with music. It is one of his best compositions. A Foggy Day has a very cluttered sound. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but I think it is one of the weaker tracks on the album. A Profile of Jackie is another great song that puts the alto sax player Jackie McLean in the spotlight. The album ends with Love Chant, which is another highlight. The playing on this album is incredible and it is essential to Mingus fans. However, some of his following albums would have stronger compostions. This is still a must have.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 1999
This is the kind of album that you put on after a long day doing whatever you do, and sit back and relax and wonder if you shouldnt ever leave the house. Mingus's music puts me in sucha good mood i never want to shut off the stero. god bless him.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2000
This is an impressive collection of jazz music from 1956. The music is pleasant, classic jazz from a quintest of talented musicians. The notes include the original liner notes written by Charles Mingus which I found to be extremely helpful because I am new to American Jazz music. Nat Hentoff wrote an introduction in which he makes note, "On the other tracks here, and in all of Mingus's collective discoveries that were to come, his musicians were similarly compelled to dig into themselves. As one Mingus alumnus told me recently, "He would yell at you in the middle of a solo: 'Stop playing licks and get into yourself!' Christ, he had more confidence in what we were capable of than we did." Charles Mingus exudes confidence in his style of serious Jazz Music. When descibing his approach to composition, he writes, "Each man's own particular style is taken into consideration, both in ensemble and in solos. For instance, they are given different rows of notes to use against each chord but they choose their own notes and play them in their own style, from scales as well as chords, except where a particular mood is indicated. In this way, I find it possible to keep my own compositional flavor in the pieces and yet to allow the musicians more individual freedom in the creation of their group lines and solos." Compositions which reflect the environment of their performance has been a concern of many serious composers of the late twentieth century, and Mingus has found one solution to this complex problem. The title cut is a mouthfull and ambitious attempt to distill the ascent of humans into a narrative of 10 minutes. Mingus is a master of the tone poem, and succeeds not only in telling our evolution, but also in painting tone pictures of the street life of San Francisco. I enjoy this complex and satisfying music. If you are interested in American Jazz Music from the middle of the twentieth century, or in manifestations of a complex compositional process whose results are accessible tone poems, this music will interest you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2006
Charles Mingus's melody for "Pithecanthropus Erectus" is an absolute classic. It's beautiful, and as he shows in the song, it can be played calmly or chaotically. At the time, it was a forward-thinking example of jazz composition and harmony. Today, it still stands up. The CD goes next to "A Foggy Day" where ambient sounds are added to the song. It's not the best song, I don't think the fog horns and so forth add or detract from it, they're not too prominent in the mix. "Profile Of Jackie" features Jackie McLean's sax, not a bad song, I'm not very enthusiastic about it. The CD wraps up in fine form with "Love Chant", a long improvisation. Bookended by strong songs, I highly recommend this CD.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2007
This mini-lp replica sleeve is a real treat for fans as it very faithfully copies in great detail the original lp design. The remastered sound also makes the sound quality of this album a real pleasure to listen to as well. This is a worthwhile addition to any jazz fan's musical library. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2002
The bass line on the title track is one of the greatest ever written, the horns are just brilliant, really beautiful music here, but tame compared to what was coming down the road from "Chally". Why atlantic hasn't put out a better version of this is a great mystery, The Clowns has been given better treatment even. Still, one must make do, as this isn't music one should really live without.
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