The Debut label was created by bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach
to get their compositions recorded and released, a landmark 1950s effort in the history of jazz musicians taking the initiative both to control their work and to make it public. This 12-CD set--nearly 14 hours of music--is an exhaustive collection of Mingus's work for the label, both as leader and sideman, abounding in unreleased takes and obscure sessions. Some of the material is well known, such as the extraordinary 1953 Massey Hall concert with Charlie Parker
, Dizzy Gillespie
, and Bud Powell
along with Mingus and Roach, but it's heard here in both its original form as well the version with Mingus's overdubbed bass parts. Pianist Paul Bley
recorded his first date as leader for Debut, in a trio with Mingus and Art Blakey
, and that's here as well.
Mingus's own early work is here in abundance, from early third-stream efforts involving John Lewis and Lee Konitz to the 1955 quintet recordings at the Café Bohemia. What's most astonishing here, though, isn't the cast of greats--such as J.J. Johnson and the Jones brothers Elvin, Thad, and Hank--but the number of largely forgotten musicians with whom Mingus worked. The members of the 1955 band--such as saxophonist George Barrow and trombonist Eddie Bert--weren't well known then or later, but Mingus is clearly pressing them to the point where his own brooding, tempestuous music is beginning to take shape. With its wealth of alternate takes, this is clearly a set for the serious collector, an intimate and detailed portrait of Mingus in an era of tremendous creative ferment. --Stuart Broomer