Mingus was never easily categorized - a modernist with a keen sense of jazz history, ironical towards the "copy-cats" of other great modernists, politically bitter in his public statements, etc. At this CD, Mingus presided over two remarkable jam-sessions on tunes from Duke Ellington's magnificent repertoire.
Naturally, Ellington was just one of the influences on Mingus, who developed highly individual and instantly recognizable style and poetics, but this CD gives a great example of the way Mingus approached the music of his elder colegues. The performances are at the same time modern and swinging in the traditional sense, with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, George Adams, Hamiet Bluiett and others (who blew me out my mind with joy by their strong playing) constantly led by the leaders strong rhythmical pulse. A masterpiece.
Full of brilliant improvisations and "cutting contests", these two jams nevertheless have the feel of a "composition" (or "arrangement")in the sense of Ellington's or Mingus's best orchestral work.
This recording is jazz at its best - filled with live improvisation, without undue adherence to canon.
Working with a larger band here than was often the case for those of his recordings which have made it to the digital age, Charles Mingus and his band take two Duke Ellington classics, strip them back and completely reconfigure them. The result is a joyous, vibrant, complex interweaving of instruments and registers. Whilst there is not a weak member in the ensemble, Rahsaan Roland Kirk's two solos are extraordinary and his circular breathing technique simply masterful.
The sound quality of the recording can be a little variable on occasion but the rough edges only serve to enhance the appeal of this rough hewn gem. The horns have ample opportunity to stretch out and soar with the sheer joy of the moment, melodic and serene then atonal and squalling. Underneath it all, Mingus weaves an ensorcelled tapestry, embellishing the bubbling, endlessly inventive bedrock. Two tracks of hugely satisfying length. Beautiful!