5 Underdog Mingus Tunes

Charles Demuth, Figure 5 in Gold (partial), 1927.

Charles Mingus
Music Written for Monterey, 1965. Not Heard… Played in its Entirety at UCLA 
Sunnyside : 2005 (Rec. 1965)

CM, bass; Hobart Dotson, trumpet; Lonnie Hillyer, trumpet; Jimmy Owens, flugelhorn; Charles McPherson, alto sax; Julius Watkins, french horn; Howard Johnson, tuba; Danny Richmond, drums.

We’re proud to introduce a new feature where musicians, critics, and fans select five  significant tunes or albums from a favorite artist. Our first entry comes from bassist and composer DOAN BRIAN ROESSLER choosing FIVE UNDERAPPRECIATED TUNES BY CHARLES MINGUS.

1) “Jump Monk” – Mingus at the Bohemia (Debut, 1955)
Mingus sets the scene here and brings on the cast members one by one. A snare drum crack opens the gates and the band is off, displaying a group sound and interplay that will prove to be quintessential Mingus. His writing, leadership and vision are on full display.

2) “R &R” – Reincarnation of a Lovebird (Candid, 1960)
These Candid sessions are famous for the record Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. This track, like much of the music, wasn’t released for decades due to Candid’s early demise. Mingus steers this tune with a deft touch, letting this strangely brilliant line-up do its thing (Eldridge, Knepper, Dolphy, Flanagan, and Jo Jones).

3) “Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues” – Mingus Plays Piano (Impulse!, 1963)
It’s certainly not my original thought that Mingus could have been a pianist instead of a bassist if he had wanted to. This record makes the argument convincingly. Here we have a bluesy, sensitive take on a tune (with a slight title alteration in classic Mingus style) that we can hear his band tear up in live recordings from the next year.

4) “Meditation On Inner Peace” – Music Written for Monterey, 1965. Not Heard… Played in its Entirety at UCLA (Sunnyside, 2005) 
The music swells and recedes but builds inexorably over the course of its 18 minutes, featuring some of the finest arco bass playing we have on record from Mingus. This track comes out of a dark period in Mingus’s life and career. Not long after his struggle to bring this music to light, he was evicted from his home and took a several year hiatus from performing and recording.

5) “Hobo Ho”  – Let My Children Hear Music (Columbia, 1972)
Definitely not what it seems at first glance, which is one of Mingus’s great tricks. A bluesy quartet track with a locomotive bass riff until it gives way to kaleidoscopic, chaotic big band interjections. A great example of Mingus building an imposing edifice out of simple materials.

Doan Brian Roessler is a bassist, teacher, composer, and Zen Buddhist priest. He is most often heard playing in duo with Nathan Hanson and in the ensemble Fantastic Merlins.  

Category Charles Mingus, Five Spot, guest posts