Vital And Inspirational,
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This review is from: Pithecanthropus Erectus (Audio CD)
This 1956 album by the highly influential and revolutionary jazz musician, composer and arranger Charles Mingus is generally recognised as the man's first attempts at recording music according to his principles of individual player improvisation within Mingus' own defined framework, comprising both musical definition and, equally importantly, feel. What is also particularly notable about this album and, in particular, in its legendary title piece, is that it is possible to detect (in the composition and playing) Mingus' conception and belief that all forms of music (in particular jazz and classical) should be fused into a single form - a concept that he would take to (arguably) its ultimate conclusion on his later masterpiece, The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady.
Sonically, what I find most amazing about the album's title piece (itself Mingus' musical depiction of humankind's evolution, misplaced exploitation and eventual decline) is the way this mere 5-piece set-up, comprising (in addition to Mingus) Jackie McLean on alto, J R Monterose on tenor, Mal Waldron on piano and Willie Jones on drums, can conjure up such an apparently 'large' ensemble sound (as compared with his 11-piece band on Black Saint). Of course, this does not mean that there is any shortage of evocatively felt soloing (and indeed squealing) from the horns, within the piece's infectiously complex rhythm.
In addition to the title piece, we have the other extended Mingus composition Love Chant, another (slightly more restrained) exposition, based around Waldron's mesmerising chord introduction and featuring some more fine soloing, and playing in tandem, from the two horns. Given the nature of his performance on this album it is all the more surprising that Mingus eventually decided that altoist McLean was unable to 'fit' style-wise within the Mingus band set-up. The one non-Mingus composition here is the amazing version of Gershwin's A Foggy Day (which Mingus stressed was taking place in San Francisco rather than London) which, as well as featuring some beautifully laid back and evocative playing from McLean and Monterose (plus a nice solo from Mingus), transports the listener to its city setting via its sound effects of cop's whistle, fog horn, car horn and cable car clang. Finally we have the Mingus dedication to his alto player in the brief and heartfelt piece Profile of Jackie, which provides a nice interlude between the album's more exhilarating sounds.
A classic jazz recording which, particularly in the form of its title composition, represented a milestone of the genre.