On July 20, 1975, Charles Mingus was in Montreux, Switzerland, to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He was on tour to promote Changes One and Changes Two, a pair of albums recorded for Atlantic months earlier in December 1974. They are among the bassist’s finest albums of the decade and were his first studio recordings in the States in the 1970s up until that point. For better or worse, a bulk of Mingus’s 1970s albums were concert recordings.
Now, Eagle Rock Entertainment has released Charles Mingus: Live at Montreux 1975, a two CD set that is a follow-up to the DVD it released of the concert back in 2004. The music sounds as if the band had been recorded in the studio. The fidelity is fantastic and the applause has been kept to a hushed minimum. On stage, bassist Charles Mingus was joined by George Adams (ts, fl, vcl), Jack Walrath (tp), Don Pullen (p) and Dannie Richmond (d), with special guests Gerry Mulligan (bs) and Benny Bailey (tp).
The new album’s first three tracks are from Changes One. The first is Devil Blues, a raw, fire-spitting blues with a snarling vocal by Adams. The second track is announced by Mingus as Free Cell Block F, ‘Tis Nazi U.S.A. It’s not. It’s actually Remembering Rockefeller at Attica. I’m not sure whether Mingus confused the two, he purposefully said “Cell Block F” because it was a more controversial or because the two songs have similar chord changes. Either way, it’s a wonderful rendition that runs 10:32 instead of the album’s 5:58.
But the album’s high point is Sue’s Changes. The song, written for Sue Mingus, Charles Mingus’s wife, runs a resplendent 33:27, with a wind-swept piano solo by Pullen, a trumpet solo by Walrath, a bass solo by Mingus and a drum solo by Dannie Richmond. [Photo above of Sue and Charles Mingus courtesy of Sue Mingus]
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat has a slow, mournful pace. Joining in, Bailey and Mulligan are a perfect pairing, and the song in Mulligan’s hands sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to I Want to Live. Take the “A” Train is fairly pedestrian by contrast to the other songs performed, but it is spirited just the same. Once again, the feel of Bailey’s blistering trumpet against the smooth grunts of Mulligan’s baritone topped by Pullen’s piano makes it worth hearing. [Photo above of Gerry Mulligan at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1975 from YouTube]
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Charles Mingus: Live at Montreux 1975 here.
The DVD is available here.
JazzWax clip: Here’s Take the “A” Train…