Jazz Icons: Charles Mingus Live in '64
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Jazz Icons: Charles Mingus showcases three exceptional concerts performed in April 1964 featuring his most celebrated lineup--Jaki Byard (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums), Johnny Coles (trumpet), Clifford Jordan (tenor sax) and the great Eric Dolphy (alto sax, flute and bass clarinet). Recorded within an eight-day span, less than three months before Dolphy's death, the three concerts showcase Mingus's visionary leadership and the band's incredible depth and diversity with unique performances and arrangements of classics including "So Long Eric" and the groundbreaking "Meditations On Integration".
"Jazz Icons is doing for jazz what the Criterion Collection has done for classic and important films". -- Jazz Times
Jazz Icons represents the new millennium's most welcome shot in the arm for the music's soul -- Newsday.com, October 14, 2007, Gene Seymour
The iconoclast among icons. This DVD gives witness to three of Mingus's finest live performances, with one of his most potent groups on fire. -- Bass Player Magazine, November 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Jaki Byard sounds amazing on the recordings also. His knowledge of all types of music seeps into his improvisations. One minute he's evoking Jelly Roll Morton and the next Tchaikovsky and Alban Berg, and Asian flavors blossom, too. Clifford Jordan is an understated player, and he's technically precise with a nice tone quality. His way of working fit perfectly with Mingus' overwhelming and fiery personality. Richmond, an ebullient drummer with an obvious love for playing with this group of musicians follows Mingus well and changes the tempi with precision in Meditations. Coles' trumpet playing is also undertstated, yet beautifully expressive. It's clear Miles Davis had a strong influence on his playing with the bending of notes and lovely tone quality.
Eric Dolpy and Mingus are the stars, however. Dolphy blows my mind with his virtuosity on three instruments. His flute playing is lovely and nuanced and when he grabs the bass clarinet another side of him comes to the fore. Pyrotechnics is the word that comes to mind. His alto saxophone playing is equally mind-numbing.
Mingus put together one of the best groups of musicians ever and composed music perfectly suited to their talents.
about his 1964 band. When I heard the beautiful & bizarre saxaphone playing, I thought, Could that be Eric Dolphy?
Of course it was, & at the peak of his power! No longer a Coltrane follower/acolyte, but a master in his own right.
I've watched the DVD closely & also played it in the background. Mingus gives you a history of Jazz, from New Orleans to Charlie Parker, to the ensemble jazz of late '50's/early '60's, to Dolphy foreshadowing the experimentalism of the mid to late 60's. Though many decried Dolphy (Coltrane & Ayler), they were superb musicians who had mastered many forms of music before trying to break the barriers of time, space & sound. Just like Picasso could paint like a master, before he re-invented himself many times, Dolphy & the suberb band are restless innovators & imporovisers on a high plateau that few mortals will ever ascend to.
I loved the rehearsal snippets where Mingus stops the band. Even though they were doing great by most standards, he was always aiming higher. Inspirational! This is serious music filled with beauty, melancholy, grace & joy. Definitely a peak of modern jazz & American music in general.
Mingus was an excellent arranger and composer, as well as leading his band on stage in improvised arrangements, and encouraging his band to improvise ensemble passages during solos. There are several instances on the video when you can see two of the horn players catch each other's eye while another is soloing and devise a supporting lick then play it behind the soloist. During the long, and carefully arranged, "Meditations On Integration" Mingus places objects in Byard's piano for some improvised prepared piano and Byard doesn't miss a beat. During a scorching Dolphy solo Mingus sings a lick for Dolphy to include in his solo, then Jordan and Coles pick it up and use it in a lick for ensemble support behind Dolphy. What other band could do things like that? There's some true esp in this band.
When a soloist is hot Mingus will cut out the band to allow him full expression, as he does for Jordan during his solo on "Take the A Train" - Mingus is so excited he stomps his feet as he gives Jordan the floor to preach from his pulpit. While soloing the band keeps an eye on each other, and on Mingus, as Mingus allows for moments of elasticity. It's difficult to hear the exact words, but before the band breaks into "Parkerania" you can hear them discussing how many chorus's each will take - Mingus says something like, let's say 5 cause if we say 8 we'll take 10." "Parkerania" doesn't seem to be gelling like it could - so Mingus stops the band in the middle of a Coles solo, stomps out a beat, and they light into "A Train," playing some of the best solos on the whole DVD.
This video is an education in how a small group can become an integrated unit, how modern jazz can effectively use interplay of the ensemble and soloist as in traditional jazz - and do so either prearranged and on the fly - and in the effectiveness of band members staying on stage together to allow for a kind of interplay unattainable otherwise. Furthermore, it shows that a band doesn't need to be made up of stars in order to achieve a rarefied state of excellence.