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October 1998

Charles Mingus
The Complete Columbia 1959 Recordings
Columbia Jazz

Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty contain some of the most visceral music that Mingus, the Vulcan of bassists, ever recorded. Columbia reissued the albums in the mid-1990s as CD versions of the original LPs. This box set restores cuts made 40 years ago to accommodate LP time restrictions and includes a third disc of alternate takes. In most cases, the restored music amounts to a minute or so, but "Bird Calls," "Pussy Cat Dues," "Song With Orange" and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" each get back three minutes, more or less. There have been cases in which cuts improved recordings and others in which they would have been a good idea. These restorations are fully justified on musical grounds.

Mingus voiced the horns in such a way, and he and his musicians invested "Better Git It In Your Soul," "Slop" and "Fables of Faubus" with so much intensity, that many listeners thought that they were performed by a big band. In fact, the greatest number of players on any track is 10. Most tracks have seven. The sessions constituted a triumph not only for Mingus but for Jimmy Knepper, John Handy, Booker Ervin, Roland Hanna, Horace Parlan, Dannie Richmond, and everyone involved. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and "Diane" are among the most evocative slow pieces in all of jazz. Alternate versions of six of the pieces make for fascinating comparisons and stimulating listening, but Mingus and producer Teo Macero clearly made the right choices for the original releases.

Originally published in October 1998
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