Saturdays 9 p.m. - 12 a.m.
Hosted by Fritz Byers, "Jazz Spectrum 91" is designed as an anthology, a loose and flowing tour through the history of the music, showcasing the wondrous diversity of jazz and the virtuosity of the musicians who play it.
The full interview between Fritz and Bill Kirchner is now streaming at the bottom of this posting. Click 'Listen' below.
Oliver Nelson, Afro-American Sketches, “Going Up North”
Robert Gambarini & Hank Jones, “You Are There, Stardust”
Kenny Dorham, 2 Horns/ 2 Rhythm, “I’ll Be Seeing You”
Thelonious Monk, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, “Rhythm-a-ning,” “Six in One,” “Pannonica”
Robert Glasper, In My Element, “Beatrice”
Jane Monheit, The Lovers, The Dreamers, And Me, “Lucky To Be Me”
Miguel Zenon, Alma Adentro, “Temes”
Fred Astaire, On Decca, “Dearly Beloved”
Gigi Gryce, Reminiscing, “Dearly Beloved”
Sonny Rollins, Our Man in Jazz, “Dearly Beloved”
Stanley Turrentine, Dearly Beloved, “Dearly Beloved”
Helen Merrill, The Nearness of You, “Dearly Beloved”
Tony Coe, John Horler, and Malcolm Creese, In Concert, “Dearly Beloved”
Aruan Ortiz, Cubanism, “Sacred Chronology,” “Passages”
Ian Shaw and Cedar Walton, In a New York Minute, “I Thought About You”
Cedar Walton & The Trio, Vol. 1, “Everytime We Say Goodbye”
Thelonious Monk, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, “Well You Needn’t,” “By and By”
Ray Brown with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Some of My Best Friends are the Singers, “Cherokee”
John Hicks, Nightwind, “Paris Lover”
Matt Wilson, An Attitude for Gratitude, “Cruise Blues”
Johnny Hodges, Complete Verve Small Group Recordings, “Medley: Am I Blue, Something to Remember You by”
Guillermo Klein, Los Guachos 2, “Viva”
Pete Malinverni, Heaven, “Heaven,” “Come Sunday”
Rosemary Clooney & Duke Ellington, “Sophisticated Lady”
Jimmy Giuffre, 7 Pieces, “Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West”
The email exchanges below are between our host Fritz Byers, our assistant producer Alec Hillyer, and contributor Kim Kleinman. They are, in effect, curator’s notes for the April 22, 2017 installment of Jazz Spectrum. The intention of the exchange was to provide Alec guidance in his discovery of the music Charles Mingus, and may be of interest to others that decide to take that same plunge.
I'm glad we've decided to dedicate this Saturday's show to Mingus's music. We talked about him when we were putting together the Ellington and Monk shows, and Kim (I'm copying him on this email to invite him to join our discussion) rightly pointed out that he has to be mentioned anytime we're talking about the most significant composers in jazz history. But as I said last week, there's no one like Mingus. I remember more than forty years ago, when I was first learning about jazz, reading an essay by Nat Hentoff in which Nat wrote about the endless fascinating twists and turns in Mingus's career and music and personal life. He recounted Mingus's returning to the studio after a long absence, and creating new music - if memory serves, it was the music that ultimately constituted Let My Children Hear Music. And, I think because there's no other way to say it, Nat eventually resolved to call it simply "Mingus Music." I didn't appreciate then all that simple phrase conveyed. But I think, after 40 years of listening closely to his music, I have some better sense of it. And it's exciting that you're so interested in entering the world of his music, bringing to it your usual blend of knowledge, perception, open-mindedness, and curiosity. It's like meeting a seasoned cultural anthropologist about to visit a new country for the first time.
You can read much more penetrating discussions of his biography and music than I could write in this email to you, but I want to invite you (no RSVP required) to listen to a few things that will serve as a sort of open house to just one of Mingus's many homes. The first recording I heard of Mingus was his Great Concert, and this remains for me one of the most enthralling of his recordings. Mingus, performing some of his most characteristic compositions, and conducting a band that includes Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan, and Jaki Byard. It was released - I'm dating myself - on LP as a triple record, unusual at the time. I wore out my copy - I'm not kidding. But you can find the whole thing in digital format now, and it will beckon you in, I'm pretty confident of that. A concert from two days earlier was later released as Revenge. And listening to the two of them lets you see how fluid Mingus's music was, how inviting was the palette for improvisation he created. There are entire swatches of the tunes that sound almost nothing alike, except for some atmospherics.
In distinct contrast, see if you can find a compilation called Complete West Coast Recordings. These document Mingus in his mid-20s. Although the recordings yield many glimpses of Mingus's genius, I like listening to them just to hear him play bass. Because of the non-pareil qualities of his composing and the force of his musical personality, it's not always easy to focus on how virtuosic he was as a bassist. In these pared down settings, you can hear a young Mingus inventing what, to my ears, was a new way of using the bass in small-group settings.
His Columbia sessions, which produced Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty, are justifiably regarded as centerpieces of an essential jazz discography. We bumped into them when we were looking at the almost impossibly rich body of jazz produced in 1959 - Miles, Bill Evans, Ornette, and Mingus to be sure. But from the same year, check out Blues and Roots, which is sometimes eclipsed because of Mingus Ah Um, but which, to my ears, has some of his most inspired group playing . . . and what a band! It has the unimprovably titled "E's Flat Ah's Flat Too", and also Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, which, in case we need reminding, shows how deeply Mingus understood the church-music roots that shaped him.
Is that enough of a start? I should mention also that his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, is one of the great jazz books, and well worth the time. What comes across, more forcefully than the priceless anecdotes and powerful vision, is the presence of a once-in-a-world human being, and what a joy to have the chance to be in his presence. And to listen to all he left behind.
Let me know what you think.
I’m digging this deep dive into Mingus.
I found the Complete West Coast Recordings on Spotify. This is cool and you’re right. This is…uncluttered? distilled virtuosity? Something about this feels particularly transparent, like I can concentrate on the Mingus contributions without straining my focus. This in comparison to his later work which I sometimes find a nebula of musical ideas.
I have to say I’m most impressed thus far by another new discovery later in his career. I’ve been drawn to the work on the Cornell 1964 date from the Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy. I’ve made a habit of listening to music through headphones almost exclusively lately. It’s intimate, but for live recordings the headphones don’t particularly lend themselves to recreating any room size or intended three dimensional music space. It happened that I needed to prepare some food, so instead I outputted the music from my laptop into my stereo, giving the music a bit of air between the source and myself. Man does “So Long Eric” fill up the room when it swings like this! I put on a few other records, including Mingus Ah Um, and let them bounce around the walls a bit. Interesting how these listening experiences are vastly different, even over the course of the same day and same moods. I’m hoping to reveal more Mingus textures as I adjust the way I observe this discography. I dug Mingus and Jaki Byard together here on Cornell 1964, and that got me thinking…What musical relationships did Mingus have that stand out to you in the timeline of his career?
Also, It’s on this date that the melody line for ‘Fables of Faubus’ finally won me over. I alternated between the Cornell date and Mingus Ah Um which really lends to each release’s strengths and I feel closer to this work then I ever have before.
Have fun, Alec. You are in for an adventure.
He is one of my 3 M's at the very pinnacle of the music. Miles. Monk. Mingus.
Great compositions and ensembles made up of _interesting_ players. That is, he is not Art Blakey or Miles, a talent scout who breeds bandleaders. Dolphy is tremendous of course and some very good people were in his bands (Jimmy Knepper, Horace Parlan; I liked George Adams/Don Pullen in his 1970s band and I saw them). But on the whole it strikes me that he worked with _interesting_ players who served his music very well. Dannie Richmond, his long-time drummer, is the prime example--a perfect fit with Mingus but not many other recordings. Rashaan Roland Kirk too was there and he's interesting. I have a fondness for John Handy for his Monterey album which was very hippie-friendly and had Jerry Hahn, a guitar player with a small cult of about 5 of us.
Mingus pulls on the right parts of the tradition: Parker, Ellington, and church. He gets out there too.
Beneath the Underdog is fascinating. On first read when I was of an age, I liked its angst. But Mingus was troubled. I saw this documentary on public television as a kid and then again later. It's not easy stuff. https://youtu.be/A1D0y7aSbZM
I went back to East Coasting to hear Bill Evans in a band. They are an interesting combination, but they illuminate one another in interesting ways. So, how about Bill Evans with horns--you recently reminded me about his work with George Russell, there's Miles, Blues and the Abstract Truth. An impressive body of work for someone so associated with amazing trios.
Tell us what you find, Alec.
P.S. Thanks for the pushes toward Johnny Dyani and Dudu Pakawana who I knew from a jazz fan in Chicago 35 years ago.
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the show incorporating South African artists.
I’m starting to see what you mean here. He wasn’t a guy looking to stack his band with talent, or at least it isn’t a notable trait of his. He simply needed players competent and agreeable enough to play with him and his attitude. I’m learning more about the man’s temper, which I think plays a big part in how he ultimately built his bands relationships.
I’m really digging Jerry Hahn on this recording, particularly “If Only We Knew”.
I’m about waist deep in Mingus now, and associates. I love it.
Son, waist-deep isn't deep enough.
And fathoms over our heads is still near the surface really.
Kim & Alec,
So correct – I’ve been listening to Mingus almost exclusively this week. This, after having paid great, sustained attention for 40 years. And I’ve heard songs, threads, inventions, curiosities, and more that I’ve never even glimpsed.
Right now, “MDM”, from the Candid date released as Mingus. “MDM” is Monk, Duke, and Me. So that’s telling. How’d I miss this? It’s part of his Candid series, which I thought I knew, it came right after “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus,” which has four works I think I know intimately: Folk Forms No. 1, Original Faubus Fables, What Love (a masterwork), and All the Things You Could Be by Now if Sigmund Freud’s Wife was Your Mother.” [Alec – we may have to play this just so I can say the title on air]
Anyway, you don’t need to know what the acronym stands for to hear Mingus riffing off his influences. MDM is amazing. And if I’ve ever heard it before, it was lost on me. But not today.
Danny Richmond on his empathy with Mingus: “Mingus and I feel each other out as we go; but always, when the time comes back into the original beat, we're both always there. The best way I can explain is that we find a beat that's in the air, and just take it out of the air when we want it.”