Charles Mingus’s name appears no less than five times on the record sleeve! His vanity may be open to criticism, but in the case of this particular disc, the Impulse record company was quite right to place him so forcefully in the limelight: Charles Mingus, who died in 1979, is here composer, bass player, arranger, leader and ‘animal tamer’.
He composed six of the seven numbers - if you can call it ‘composing’, that is, when he sings the harmonies over the telephone or plays them to his musicians, only to demand exactly the opposite from them in the recording studio!
As a bass player, his meaty sound drives the soloists onwards, only for him to change the tempo abruptly at the very next moment, and forcing them to change their well-trodden improvisational path.
He learned to arrange music from Duke Ellington, whose way of working he adopted: notes are not set down for just anyone to play, but for a specific musician. And here we have the crème de la crème: Booker Ervin, Eric Dolphy and Charlie Mariano.
As a leader, Mingus created his own special moments such as when he forces the whole ensemble to follow him in his spontaneous, contrapuntal ideas.
And during the whole of his life he felt like an animal tamer in the music pit. At these recording sessions in January and September 1963, real personalities sat on the stools - and Messrs. Byard, Williams, Preston and Richmond were by no means meek little creatures.
Looking for a tip as to which title to play first? What else can one say but ‘try them all’. They’re all great! And the pressing too, is absolutely first rate, with none of the streaks that the old Impulse vinyl records always had. One is only too willing to forego the wishy-washy sound that is found on so many of the cheap re-releases - you’ll find that the playing of the ensemble is crystal-clear on this album!