Five MASTERPIECE Stars, but easily deserves six stars! Essential Charles Mingus performances on an Impulse "2-on-1" CD! In a career of many great recorded performances, these two performances by volcanic, iconoclastic composer, arranger, pianist, and über bassist Charles Mingus were especially magnificent, using essentially the same small but potent all-star orchestra. Mingus was riding high in his career and these two Impulse recordings are testaments to his artistry, his ability to find key musicians at significant moments in his compositional career and meld them into cohesive groups, driving them along with his vocal leadership, his bass playing, and longtime battery-mate Dannie Richmond's drums. Mingus spotlighted alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano as his muse on both of these performances and Mariano responds magnificently as lead voice in particular on "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" which is, perhaps, Mingus' most thematic and personal work, clearly a 'cut above' even the best of Mingus' work such as "Mingus Ah Um", "Tijuana Moods", "Mingus Dynasty", "Mingus at Monterey" and so on.
Complex with dissonance and wild rhythmic swings on "The Black Saint..." , Mingus makes the group of Rolf Ericson and Richard Williams on trumpets, Quentin Jackson on trombone, Don Butterfield on tuba, Jerome Richardson on soprano sax, baritone sax, and flute, Dick Hafer on tenor sax and flute, Jackie Byard on piano, Jay Berliner on guitar, stablemate Richmond on drums, Mariano on alto sax, and Mingus on bass (and I'm positive he's on the spectacular piano interlude on "Track C-Group Dancers") seem to be a much larger orchestra. "Track A Solo Dancer" establishes the main theme from Mariano and a great Richardson soprano solo riding a wild, surging orchestral vamp. Track B has "Butter" Jackson making the trombone sound very human and vulnerable. Track C introduces spanish guitar interludes and swirling, stabbing trumpet flourishes, all culminating in "Mode F-Group and Solo Dance" as this one of Mingus' group parts roars along like a freight train leaving the station until Mariano reels in the entire proceeding. This is a stimulating, almost exhausting, and enjoyable experience unlike any other in jazz history, while revealing that Mingus has molded his Ellington roots into something highly personal. "Mingus, Mingus...." is more of a blowing session with highly structured, very attractive arrangements, and the high points are the surging dense orchestra layers of "II BS" (aka "Haitian Fight Song"), Mariano's lusty alto on "I X Love", rich, swinging Ellington illusions on "Mood Indigo" and a hard-swinging "Hora Decubitis" (which has altoist Eric Dolphy as surprise guest, rising to solo out of the musical maelstrom). But best of all is a magnificent performance of "Celia" with a very emotional Mariano and the group making Mingus proud, though the song's main sections and interludes. These performances are mesmerizing, even overpowering at times, in their beauty, elegance, hipness, and overall swinging artistry and are great testaments to Hall of Fame composer, bassist, pianist, and leader Charles Mingus. Two for the ages! My Highest Recommendation! Five AWESOME Stars! (11 tracks).