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Charles Mingus's Finest Hour

1. Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra: “Mingus Fingers” (Charles Mingus’s Finest Hour; Verve, 2002 [originally recorded November 10, 1947])

Always eager to stay hip, Lionel Hampton was one of the most enthusiastic swing-era icons to take on modernism. Indeed, as his recording of his young bassist’s composition “Mingus Fingers” shows, both Hampton and Mingus were already looking past bebop. The tune has a mighty swing, a killer melodic hook played by Mingus himself, and deep blues-inflected solos by Mingus and Hampton. But the tendrils of tightly arranged dissonance from the brasses and horns sound like they’re from another world—Stravinsky’s (whom Mingus studied), perhaps. Here was the announcement of a major new talent with a sweeping personal vision.