Jazz Portraits: Mingus in Wonderland

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Blue Note
WORKS: jazz
PERFORMER: Charles Mingus Quintet
CATALOGUE NO: CDP 8 27325 2

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Charles Mingus was one of the most adventurous string bass soloists in modern jazz, but he is remembered today for his role as a rethinker and conceptualiser of the jazz ensemble. As a band leader and composer he remained apart from the modern jazz mainstream, but not bound by its directions or conventions. His unorthodox approach to combo performance forced soloists through sudden tempo shifts, metre changes and stop time passages, juxtaposing improvised with composed music.

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Jazz Portraits is an excellent introduction to his Wonderland: a well-balanced ensemble with capable think-on-your-feet soloists (Booker Ervin on tenor sax and John Handy on alto), who play with a smoothness and precision not normally associated with a Mingus group. The gathering intensity of ‘No Private Income Blues’ and ‘Nostalgia in Times Square’ are fascinating miniatures of Mingus’s art, yet it is the sheer power of his playing that makes them memorable. Profound, powerful and utterly swinging, Mingus’s lessons have still not been totally digested by the jazz world. Stuart Nicholson