Donald Harrison, Jr. (far left) and the New Orleans Music Interns (photo: Joel A. Siegel)
9. Charles Mingus: “Cumbia & Jazz Fusion” (Cumbia & Jazz Fusion; Atlantic, 1978)
Rarely were the man’s titles as straightforward as this one. Featuring a 15-piece ensemble that included longtime collaborators as well as the cream of the New York Latin music scene, “Cumbia & Jazz Fusion” begins with an imitation of a field recording (complete with fake bird songs) of Colombian cumbia in its folk element. It grows into a massive 28-minute opus that maintains the folk rhythm throughout, but also makes it swing. There’s a typically assertive bass (both bowed and plucked), bravura solos from trumpeter Jack Walrath and tenor saxophonists Paul Jeffrey and Ricky Ford, collective improvisations, and even a growl of defiant poetry (“Who said Mama’s little baby likes shortnin’ bread?/That’s some lie some white man upped and said!”) from Mingus himself. The piece received lukewarm reviews on its release, for no reason this critic can comprehend.