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4.7 out of 5 stars39
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 2 June 2001
Ah Um is one of Charles Mingus's most richly textured albums, dense and dynamic all at once. It is almost as if the whole of the jazz tradition to that date, and some vision of its immediate future, were crammed into three-quarters of an hour.
It is not as ambitious as The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963) and still retains some measure of conventionality in the structures of some of its constituent pieces: introduction, ensemble statement of the theme, solos, development, recapitulation, closing statement.
Peculiar wails weave themselves in and out of ironic quotations from Ellington, from Mingus, from the blues, all cloaked in the enormity of the Mingus sound, thrust forward by rhythms and counter-rhythms tightly driven by Dannie Richmond. It contains the passionate, aching "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". An indispensable album.
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on 25 July 2004
In a era that produced such original composers as Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols , Mingus' approach to composition always seemed more organic and embedded deeper within the roots of jazz than these contemporaries. (Nichols, in particular, had the musical knowledge to look outside of jazz for inspiration.) This is largely compensated by the sheer physical emotion of the music that largely consisted of material based upon the blues. The impact of Mingus is immediate and passionate. On top of this, he was influenced by the music of Duke Ellington and was a great believer in the need for sudden shifts in tempo and mood with which to colour his music. This approach probably reached it's zenith in "Mingus Ah Um" where his group deliever the definative performances of some of his most celebrated tunes.
From the opening gospel inspired number in 6/8 time through to the loving dixieland pastiche dedicated to a certain Mr. Jelly Roll Morton at the end, this is gripping stuff. The music ranges from exciting bebop such as "Boogie Stop Shuffle" through to "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", a threnody to Lester Young.
This is not only an essential purchase for fans of the bassist, but should be in every jazz collection. The whole performance is driven along by the great Dannie Richmond on drums and the energy he provides merits this purchase alone. A true jazz classic.
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on 30 April 2006
This is a rarity - a Mingus album with no duff tracks at all - everything is spot-on.The eclecticism of the music and its execution are breathtaking - if you need music to wake you up, try Boogie Stop Shuffle (so that's where they got the Mission Impossible theme from!).The gentler side of Mingus emerges beautifully on the slower tracks such as Pork Pie Hat.As for the recording - how did they manage such stunning sound? OK,it's remastered, but compare it to Monk CDs from the same time and it leaves them behind - vibrant,balanced,clear and dynamic - a must-buy!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 February 2013
This 1959 album by master jazz player and composer Charles Mingus is rightly acknowledged as one of Mingus' (and indeed jazz's) finest and most diverse set of compositions. Whilst the album does not have (or need) the vast expansive instrumental sound of Mingus' 1963 masterpiece, The Black Saint And Sinner Lady, its sparser feel is perfectly suited to Mingus' compositions here, particularly on the exquisite slower and moody numbers (of which there is an outstanding selection here).

Of the musicians Mingus assembled for the album, both John Handy's alto and Booker Ervin's tenor playing are particularly noteworthy and idiosyncratic, whilst Jimmy Knepper's trombone is featured in a number of outstanding solos (none better than his sinuous turn on the wonderful slow blues of Pussy Cat Dues, in this case over Handy's rare clarinet theme). Of the more up-tempo numbers, the famous opener, gospel-inspired Better Git It In Your Soul is an fine example, as Handy and Ervin's horns harmonise nicely following Mingus' sultry opening riff, whilst the 12-bar blues Boogie Stop Shuffle is probably the most vibrant number here, with all three saxes (including Shafi Hadi's tenor) making significant contributions to the composition's unrelenting pace.

For me, however, it is on the slower, blues-based numbers that the band's mood playing is particularly affecting. The aforementioned Pussy Cat Dues is a highlight, as is Mingus' famous tribute to tenor player Lester Young, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (ironically, Young died just two months before this recording ), and on which Handy provides a sublimely heartfelt solo, whilst Mingus' 'tribute' to racist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus (who objected to high school racial integration), Fables Of Faubus is another nicely judged blues of faltering pace, featuring one of pianist Horace Parlan's longer solos, but whose overall feel seems strangely light for such a serious subject.

In addition, the 1998 CD re-issue of the album, as well as including (for the first time) the full-length versions of the original album's nine tracks, also includes three additional worthy numbers, the infectious up-tempo Pedal Point Blues, the similarly unrelenting GG Train (featuring Handy's alto) and a more conventional cover of Sonny Clapp's Girl Of My Dreams.
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on 29 June 2001
This rates as one of my top five Jazz albums of all time. A mix of longer structured pieces with a mid-sized band but tinged with bop-like improvisation and character. If you know all the classics (the best of Miles, Ellington et al) and are looking for something as good that's a little less well known this is certainly one to go for.
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VINE VOICEon 1 May 2009
This album, along with three others (Miles Davies - Kind of Blue, Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come and Dave Brubeck - Time Out) were recently identified as key albums that shaped Jazz in 1959. Fifty years on, this album still has the power to amaze.

The opening track, Better Git it in Your Soul, is a joyous stomp, leading onto Good By Pork Pie Hat which is a calm and charming piece. There then follows Boogie Stop Shuffle - simply one of the most thrilling pieces of Jazz I have ever heard - with a driven bass line, fabulous saxophone and trumpet.

The treasures keep coming - Bird Calls (a tribute to Charlie Parker) bursts with the be-bop inspired dissonance Parker loved. There's even political comment: Fable to Faubus (a governor of Arkansas opposed to racial integration) seems to mock the governor for his attitudes.

This edition has three extra tracks over the original album. If you have only an early CD release or LP and love this album, this edition is worth buying for the extra tracks. This edition also contains a decent illustrated booklet with material from 1959 and later critical review which makes it worth buying the CD rather than downloading.
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on 21 October 2014
Great to hear these full length versions, although given that it was Mingus who did the initial editing, we have to wonder why you'd want to goback over his 'compositional' decisions. Most annoyingly, in order to fit the extra 12.5 mins of music on, the recordings have been transferred at a higher rpm, so they all sound faster, and are a semi tone higher! A bit of a con on Sony's part!
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on 18 April 2012
This album shows what Charlie Mingus could achieve. It sounds aggressive and exciting. The free solos are actually disciplined and not too long for their content, even though the tracks are mostly quite long the quality of improvisation makes them feel compact and the whole album swings. It seems to me that the combo knew each other well and knew to how pass the solo baton before their inspriation had ceased. It also sounds like it has the strucure of an Ellington small group but with a more exciting and immediate sense of purpose. It is much more satisfying too my ears than the contemporary Free Jazz of Ornette Coleman
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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2003
Not much more to say than - Buy this album! - Mingus is really at his very best here, quality of the recording is breathtaking, close your eyes, light a cigar and drift off to Chicago!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 June 2016
The great bassist/composer/bandleader Charles Mingus(1922-79) recorded his debut for COLUMBIA on 5 & 12 May, 1959 with John Handy(tenor sax, alto sax, clarinet); Booker Ervin(tenor sax); Shafi Hadi(tenor sax, alto sax); Willie Dennis, Jimmy Knepper(trombone); Horace Parlan(piano) & Dannie Richmond(drums).
The nine memorable tracks include impressive tributes to Duke Ellington('Open Letter To Duke'), Jelly Roll Morton('Jelly Roll'), Charlie Parker('Bird Calls') & Lester Young('Goodbye Pork Pie Hat') who had died a couple of months before this recording.
Other highlights are 'Fables of Faubus' directed at the racist governor of Arkansas and the gospel-influenced 'Better Get It In Your Soul'.
The music on this vinyl issue of 'Mingus Ah Um' is full of life, passion, intensity and humour and is one of the absolute classics of modern jazz.
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