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Ted Curson: Live in Paris

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There is a solid list of reasons why Live in Paris is a valuable keepsake. It’s the last non-posthumous release from trumpeter Ted Curson, who passed in November from heart failure at the age of 77. It features the music of Charles Mingus, Curson’s best known and most fruitful association in jazz, presenting four of the irascible composer’s more familiar tunes in the near-ideal context of a three-horn frontline and approximately 10 to 15 minutes allotted for each song. It also includes Curson’s best composition, “Tears for Dolphy,” a tribute to his former cohort with Mingus that serves as a fitting prologue for the Mingus material. And it showcases tenor saxophonist Ricky Ford, a rugged stylist with a plangent, slightly nasal tone and commanding yet careening phrasing reminiscent of Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, who also played with Mingus and has been criminally underrepresented on record since moving to Europe more than a decade ago.

There are minor drawbacks. The distinctively chromatic horn voicings that are a core value of Mingus arrangements are not given full-throated expression, especially on the iconic Lester Young tribute, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” And Curson is not as visceral here as he was back in the Jazz Workshop days in the early ’60s. But these shortcomings are outweighed by the chance to hear the mugging black humor of “Fables of Faubus,” the evocative urbanity of “Nostalgia in Times Square” and the sophisticated funk splendor of “Better Get Hit in Your Soul” in fairly full flower.

Originally Published