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Charles Mingus: The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-1965

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Certain Mosaic boxes pull rank on others, no small accomplishment given the unilateral quality of the company’s various releases. This particular set, though, is one of the half dozen or so true heavies: an epic slab of absolutely vital-and vanguard-1960s music, and a whole new way of looking at Charles Mingus.

Timed to the 90th anniversary of Mingus’ birth, we get a virtual passel of unreleased live music. The famed Town Hall concert from ’64, which previously existed in truncated, 47-minute form, has now been fleshed out to two full discs on this seven-disc set. Beyond the souped-up fidelity (this is jazz that profits by volume), there’s the seemingly telepathic interplay of one of the medium’s top small groups as they wax what could well be their most diverse, passionate and polished set. For all of the lineup’s myriad strengths-from Eric Dolphy’s multidimensionality to Johnny Coles’ tart trumpet breaks to Jaki Byard’s pianistic finesse-this classic sextet could get a bit rangy, as a host of bootleg recordings attest, but here they’re both rapacious and in complete control. Byard may well be the concert’s hero, in his unassuming way. The opening “A.T.F.W.”-an acronym for Art Tatum and Fats Waller-moves from ragtime territory to various stride maneuvers, with virtuosic flourishes worthy of the two titular pianists and a few classically leaning touches of suggestive of Alexander Scriabin tossed in as well.

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