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Charles Mingus Jazz Portraits

4. Charles Mingus: “Nostalgia in Times Square” (Jazz Portraits; United Artists, 1959)

Mingus’ ambition and broad palette turned off some critics and even some peers, who thought that the composer had gone too artsy-fartsy and strayed too far from blues, swing, and, well, Blackness. Tunes like “Nostalgia in Times Square” were his response. It’s a 12-bar blues; its harmonies are weird, but also bold and soulful; its melody is simple and instantly memorable; and its rhythm doesn’t just swing, it struts. Add to that fantastic solos by saxophonists John Handy and Booker Ervin and pianist Richard Wyands—as well as one by the bass meister himself, both nimble and threateningly aggressive. (That his solo turns into a dialogue with drummer Dannie Richmond is just icing on the cake.) Question Mingus’ jazz cred at your own risk.