This was recorded during Mingus' Jazz Workshop days. His group (Dannie Richmond, Ted Curson, & Eric Dolphy) had a regular club gig, but rather than 'perform' in the traditional sense, they would basically hold live rehearsals: try new things, experiment, learn, & grow. This particular group had been together for a while and was soon coming to an end (Dolphy was about to strike out on his own). Mingus pulled them into the studio to cut what they had been doing on wax.
Although a studio recording, Mingus treats it just like a regular Workshop club date, he even talks to the 'audience' (admonishing them, in true Mingus fashion, to please be quiet so they don't bother the band!). The opening bars of 'Folk Forms No. 1' almost have a 'here we go again...' quality. No one expected the night to go as well as it did. You can hear their enthusiasm build as the album plays, the energy level increases to stirring levels as the guys realize that they are making history here.
This album contains the definitive version of 'Fables of Faubus' (with Dannie Richmond screaming furiously at Gov. Faubus), and a fiery 'All the Things You Could Be...'. However, the crowning achievement of the date is 'What Love'. This is the track that put Eric Dolphy on the map for me. The piece culminates around a 'conversation' between Mingus' bass and Dolphy's bass clarinet...much, much better than the version on 'Live at Antibes'. This is probably the most expressive, evocative piece of musicianship that I know of. The liner notes offer a translation of what is 'said', but to me its stunning not for the words but the emotions that are expressed. Two bright stars (Dolphy, it would turn out, a Supernova) sharing feelings probably the only way they, as men, knew how.
You'd expect Mingus & Dolphy to steal the show, but that's not to say the other guys had a bad night. The highly under-rated Ted Curson lays it down something fierce, and Richmond is his usual 'united-with-Mingus-at-the-sub-atomic-level', hard swinging, high energy self.
A must-have for Mingus fans, and a great introduction to what he was about besides playing the hits on 'Mingus Ah-Hum'. Beyond that, this album is a stunning testament to the power of improvised music.
Eric Dolphy's circular improvisation style is hear, full of sudden starts and stops in just the right places. Ted Curson's trumpet playing is just as good and in some spots, the two horns can be heard switching leads and intertwining so much that sometimes its hard to tell which is Curson and which is Dolphy.
Mingus himself obviously gets a more upfront role in this quartet than in his big band work. Some of the bass lines and solos he creates send my head bobbing and weaving.
Of course no great Mingus album is without the hard driving drums of Dannie Richmond.
As far as the actual pieces my favorite are the first two, FOLK FORMS NO. 1 and ORIGINAL FAUBUS FABLES. The former starts the album off with a bang and is more straight ahead bop style jazz than anything else on here. It is the 2nd longest piece but it goes by fast. Everyone takes a pretty even part in it as well.
ORIGINAL FAUBUS FABLES is the unrealeased version of the piece that appears on AH UM but this includes the intended vocals. A sarcastic "tribute" to racist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus who tried to prevent black students from attending the University despite federal law. Mingus and Dannie Richmond sing lines like, "Why is he so sick and ridiculous?...Dannie Richmond?" "They brain wash and teach you hate!!" the two yell. "Boo Nazi Facist Extremists!" " Governor Faubus!!" Its more something you have to hear for yourself.
WHAT LOVE takes things down a notch and is more of a ballad type piece. This is the longest cut and it can get long to listen to all the time especially after the first 2. The highlight of this however is the famed "conversation" that Eric Dolphy and Mingus have through the voices of their instruments. If you've never heard it you should, its magical. It sounds as if they are actual verbalizing, slowly "saying" things like "hey whats up?" "Yeah?" Yeah." They ask each other more chit chat type questions and answers, Then it gets more intense slowly rising until they are at one point "screaming" at each other, but they settle their differences before things get too much out of hand.
The last piece ALL THE THINGS YOU COULD BE BY NOW IF SIGMUND FREUD'S WIFE WAS YOUR MOTHER, is not as strange as you might think. Its more a mid tempo ballad but not as standout as anything else on the album, still good though.
This was the first album I heard from Mingus and Dolphy and it remains in my top five jazz album list to this day. Its the raw emotion, passion, sensitivity, humor, and skill that the genre Jazz really means, A MUST OWN OR MUST LISTEN TO ALBUM!
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