## 1-4 Changes One
Charles Mingus's finest recordings of his later period are Changes One and Changes Two, two Atlantic LPs that have been reissued on CD by Rhino. The first volume features four stimulating Mingus originals ("Remember Rockefeller at Attica," "Sue's Changes," "Devil Blues" and "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love") performed by a particularly talented quintet (tenor-saxophonist George Adams who also sings "Devil Blues," trumpeter Jack Walrath, pianist Don Pullen, drummer Dannie Richmond and the leader/bassist). The band has the adventurous spirit and chancetaking approach of Charles Mingus's best groups, making this an easily recommended example of the great bandleader's music.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
## 5-9 Changes Two
Along with its companion volume Changes One, this is one of the great sessions from one of the best working bands of the 1970s. Starting with the spirited "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A," this volume also includes the vocal version of "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" with guest singer (and acquired taste) Jackie Paris, a remake of the classic Mingus composition "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blue," Jack Walrath's "Black Bats and Poles," and Sy Johnson's "For Harry Carney." The challenging repertoire from these December 1974 dates sustained the Jazz Workshop for several years; these are the definitive performances. Rhino's reissue duplicates the original LP down to the layout.
- Stuart Kremsky (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
Like Duke Ellington used to Charies Mingus prefers to talk about his next album, his next composition, his next morning, his next tonight at noon. It is the alluring unpredictability of possibility that keeps him immersed in music. And so. these years Mingus will seldom comment on what he has already done. This album. "Changes One" - and its companion set. "Changes Two" - are exceptions. "They're among the best records I've made" Mingus says.
I asked him why he felt these sets had indeed worked out to be a strong and essential part of the Mingus canon "Because". Mingus said, "this band has been together longer than most of the bands I've had." Except for trumpeter Jack Walrath. who had been with Mingus about six months at the time of this recording, the rest of the musicians had been together for some two years. Considering the way Mingus shapes his compositions and his players, that lengthy a period of collective communion adds a further, deeper dimension to the music.
As British critic Jack Cooke once wrote of Mingus's way. "Given a regular personnel, Mingus is so able to develop his work and that of its executants as to run the two together and evolve a common discipline within which each player can find a more personal voice."
That takes time, and the time is decidedly worth it. About fifteen years ago. during my very brief career as an a&r man. I recorded a Mingus unit which had been together well over a year (Eric Dolphy and Ted Curson were part of it), and the session ran itself. Or rather, the music ran itself. Nearly everything, including the long numbers, was done in one or two takes. And the music is as arrestingly powerful now as it was then.
This album too is going to have a long life because it is so authoritatively, inventively together the compositions, the solos, the forthright ease of empathy with which these musicians interweave. There is nothing tentative here, nothing in excess, no showboating. It's all classic Mingus - bold, clear, marvelously resilient lines: continually intriguing shifts of time and texture: and that ability of the leader to draw on the expressive potential of each sideman so that they discover they have ways of saying things they had not quite known were in them.
There is also in Mingus's work - starting here from the first bar Remember Rockefeller at Attica - an immediate, unmistakable flavor, flair, imprint. A fusion of daring and romanticism, innocence and rage, and dark wit somehow touched with wonder. It is what makes Mingus, as Ellington would have said, beyond category. There is no gesialt-in-sound like his, no stories like the ones he tells.
Even when the title comes on after the music is written. Mingus hauls you up some. Remember Rockefeller at Attica was first called something else. "But I think." Mingus says. "I ought to give titles to my music that may make people think." What. then. I asked Mingus, are we to remember about Rockefeller at Attica. "We ought to remember." Mingus said, "that here was a man who could have cut off the water supply and the food supply and ended the prisoners' rebellion that way. Instead he sent the army in and shot his own men as well as the prisoners. That's the part to remember that Rockefeller is a very dangerous man." Also to remember, at the end. are echoes of the Mingus fables of Faubus.
Mingus feels entirely differently about Susan Graham of Sue's Changes. The publisher of Changes (a literate and provocative journal which covers music and other essentials). Sue Graham, is a resourceful and challenging woman. This continually intriguing composition. Mingus says succinctly, is about "some moods I think Sue goes through. It is not. however, about her newspaper."
Sue's Changes, I'm convinced, is one of Mingus's key works, the main ballad theme being one of his most lambently compelling, the dramatic structure cohering continually through all the shifts in time and mood and intensity. Despite the length and complexity of the work. by the way. it was recorded in practically one takea further witness to the enormous musical advantage of having a band that has been together, with one exception, for two years.
Devil Blues, with George Adams's gravelly, shouting blues vocal, started as a kind of put-on when the Mingus forces were playing at Max's Kansas City in New York. "They had a bunch of singing groups there," Mingus remembers, "and so I told George we ought to get together a number that he could sing. This was it. Gate Mouth Brown wrote the words, and George changed the melody." However the performance was originally motivated, the groove is rich and solid.
Mingus, almost from the beginning, was attracted to the music of Duke Ellington and for a brief time, he played bass with the Ellington band. (For the antic details, see Mingus's book. Beneath The Underdog.) Mingus wrote Duke Ellingtons Sound of Love soon after Duke died, and this performance is extraordinarily affecting - for what it evokes of the romantic, lyrical essence of Duke and for what it adds to the long resonant relationship between Mingus and Duke. And the solos are first-class, notably that of George. Adams, sounding as if. in a way, he were speaking across memory to Ben Webster. Duke, who loved melody so. would have been delighted with this song.
Throughout this set. the musicians - in ensemble and in solo - add further to their own stature and to that of Mingus as a developer of musicians. Pianist Don Pullen, as Mingus says, can go outside, can play ballads"with real ideas of his own," can swing; and as Ilhan Mimaroglu. producer of this session, notes, has a style which "calls to mind both Chopin and Cecil Taylor."
Adams, who can be robust and tender, highly adventurous and solidly within the jazz tenor tradition, has best been characterized musically by Mimaroglu: "You can feel practically the whole history of the tenor saxophone in his personality, and yet he does have his own musical personality. All these musicians are eclectics in the best sense of the word because they are not derivative. They are. in fact, original."
Trumpeter Jack Walrath. an alumnus of the Ray Charles band, combines a questing personal sound with incisive conception - Dannie Richmond, who sometimes seems to know Mingus's compositions and improvisatory anticipations at least as well as the composer-bassist himself, adds his customary brushfire urgency to the proceedings.
This is. in sum, quintessential Mingus -alert, urgent soloists forged, as if by a huge hand, into a collective identity that serves to intensify their own personalities while they in turn reflect the protean personality of their leader-composer. It is one of the more absorbing phenomena in jazz as you can hear right here.
There are times when Mingus can appear to be the mildest of men but he's never all that mild. During one such period, Ilhan Mimaroglu, who produced this session, said of Mingus in the studio: "He was normally self-effacing. But his presence was always felt" Or there was Mingus himself telling me recently of the men he selects to play with: "So long as they play their parts with feeling, they can solo any way they want to." Except that if the solo is more sound than substance, leader-editor Mingus excises it from the album.
Mingus does allow much freedom in his bands, but Mingus also sets certain standards of musicianship, of emotional commitment (he has small patience for empty rhetoricians), and of understanding of his music. To be understood so well that it becomes a natural expression of its players, Mingus's music requires seasoning, and that's why Mingus prefers to record with bands that have been with him for more than a few changing seasons. Except for trumpeter Jack Walrath, a Mingus veteran of six months at the time of these sessions, the rest of the musicians had been with Mingus for two years. And you can hear it. And Mingus, hearing it, has pronounced this album - and its companion set, "Changes One," released simultaneously - among the best recordings he's made. There is an ease of interplay between the musicians, a complete command of the material that allows for organically inventive solos and a collective, often buoyant authority. The brisk, bright theme of the opener. Free Cell Block F Tis Nazi U.S.A., is at odds with the grim title. In fact, the title was conceived after the song was composed. But Mingus believes that titles should speak, from time to time, to issues that ought to be of concern. And so he christened this piece with the memory of an outrage - a Southern prison preparing for electrocutions - he had recently read about in Ebony.
The long, fascinatingly kaleidoscopic Orange Was The Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blue, has a history of more than a decade. In the early 1960's, Robert Herridge, a restlessly brilliant television producer - whose range encompassed The Sound of Jazz (with Billie Holiday) and Dostoievsky's Notes from the Underground - was involved with a television drama. He asked Mingus, whose music he much admired, to write the score.
"The story." Mingus recalls, "was about a rich girl who supposedly fell in love with a piano player. She liked to bug him and so she bought an orange dress and told him to write a song dedicated to her dress, figuring that no one could find a word to rhyme with 'orange."
This contrary, wayward mood is part of the music, but so are many other varieties of experience. I have never heard the piece played more evocatively, disturbingly and satisfyingly than here. Yet it was all done in one take. "Mingus feels" says producer Ilhan Mimaroglu. "that long works like this one require continuity of performance, whether in a night club, concert hall or recording studio. So on this session. Mingus told the musicians before they started. 'We're going to do it in one take." Once more, the riveting quality of the performance testifies to the benefit, to say the least, of doing a record date with a group that has been together a long time.
My advice, probably gratuitous, is that you try listening to Orange three, four, five times in a row. You'll keep hearing new layers within layers of linear, textural, and rhythmic patterns.
Black Bars And Poles is a vehicle for the considerable solo skills - and warmth - of the members of this edition of what used to be called the Mingus Workshop. As has been the case with previous Mingus alumni, these musicians are going to make considerable impact in the years ahead. Pianist Don Pullen. an unusual combination of jazz classicist and avant-gardist has already forged a strong reputation. George Adams can swing hard, be intimately persuasive in a ballad, and also move outside (as some musicians describe flights to relatively uncharted musical territory Trumpeter Jack Walrath, whose experience has included time with Ray Charles, is particularly expert with a mute and is developing a conception of his own. Dannie Richmond is. of course, the veritable rhythmic foundation of the Mingus microcosm.
A considerably longer instrumental version of Duke Ellingtons Sound of Love can be, and should be, heard on Charles Mingus:
"Changes One" In this setting of his tribute to Duke. Mingus's lyrics are included, as sung by Jackie Paris, a onetime Mingus associate and stillas this performance indicatesone of the more acutely sensitive musician- singers in jazz.
What the lyrics make clear is that the song is part of a self-portrait. It is, as Ilhan Mimaroglu notes, about Mingus's approach to music in the beginning, in his formative years. And, I would add about Mingus's approach to coping with what Duke called The Mystery Song of being itself.
Ellington figures as well in the final For Harry Carney by Sy Johnson, a piece which contains some of my favorite solos in both these albums. It is a brilliantly, affectionately, disciplinedly realized performance. Like Harry Carney.
Of this album - and "Changes One" as well - Mingus says. "It's going to be interesting to me to see what the reaction is. They're both different than most albums I've done in that there's so much variety. Nothing's quite like anything else."
Variety, diversity, continual exploring, continual attraction to what Whitney Balliett has called "the sound of surprise." have always marked the Mingus odyssey. Arid in this respect, during an interview between Mingus and Ilhan Mimaroglu, there was an epiphany of Mingus in his seemingly misplaced use of a word. "In my young days." Mingus said, "while everybody was playing bebop. I was doing what I'm doing now.
And I felt looked over. The beboppers seemed to me at times to have been too - give me a good word - placid?'
"You're never at a loss for the right word." Mimaroglu said sagely. "Look at the titles of your tunes."
"Placid" was the right word for what Mingus wanted to say. "The beboppers were the groupies." Mingus elaborated. "Charlie Parker was not a bebopper, but those who copied him were."
Mingus has never been a copier, has never been placid, has always been Mingus. And because of that, of course, we have all benefited.