It's just impossible to exaggerate the importance and pleasure of this set of jazz recordings. They form, in fact, an alternative history of jazz between 1952 and 1957--typically, "the (late) bop years," but here shown to be full of both rich, various experiment and a loving regard for the whole of jazz's past. If (like me) you sometimes get the weary impression that the only officially approved good stuff of the period came from the horns of Parker, Gillespie and their hard-bopping associates, you need the tonic, the oasis, the bright bubbling spring, of The Debut Records Story.
Debut Records was, basically, Charles Mingus' vehicle for nurturing and promoting the jazz he cared about. It also (not incidentally) gave the young Mingus a handy, dependable recording platform--first as bassist, then increasingly as bandleader and composer. His wife Celia and the brilliant drummer/bandleader Max Roach were partners, but Debut was--surprise!--mostly Mingus's show.
Both the variety and quality of the players and material here give these four (!) discs real star quality. If you want classic bop, oh, it's here: "Perdido," "Salt Peanuts" and "Night in Tunisia" in history-making performances from the band fronted by Parker and Gillespie and rounded out by Bud Powell, Mingus and Max Roach. (That's not a band, it's a catechism.) But there are also wonderfully un-doctrinaire sessions from the likes of a Kai Winding-led four-trombone septet (John Lewis on piano, Mingus on bass), early Roach configurations featuring Hank Mobley on tenor sax, excellent, idiosyncratic cuts from Thad Jones, John LaPorta and (of course) Mingus-led outfits and, yes, some of the earliest recordings we have featuring the Mingus-Dannie Richmond rhythm section. And more! And more!
In short, the Debut Records Story is a deeply enjoyable, really crucial piece of The Jazz Story itself--one that reminds us that jazz has always been among the freshest, most diverse, most challenging of the arts.