Recorded November 6th 1977 at Studio 21, New York City
This session represents the final studio performances by Charles Mingus. Lionel Hampton, who employed a young Mingus in his band in 1947, has gathered a sympathetic band and fashioned, along with arranger/saxophonist Paul Jeffrey, a relatively comfortable and sedate session. Hampton, who has always seemed stuck in the 1930s and 1940s, sounds surprisingly at home in this music, which points out the true character of Mingus' music: modern, progressive, and yet always thoroughly grounded in the tradition. This disc was originally issued on Who's Who. Later, it came out on Gateway with one added track ("So Long Eric") which had previously appeared on the sampler collection titled Giants of Jazz - Vol. 2 (Who's Who WWLP 21014). The whole session is also available on a CD called The Sound of Jazz on Cleo records, Germany (CLCD 65005).
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
The cool sounds of jazz have been an eminently distinctive musical form since the beginning of the 20th Century. Evolving from an Afro-American background, by the 1920s the Western world had become well-versed in the notable rhythmical qualities of jazz, when a mixture of ragtime, blues and the New Orleans sound were fused together for the first time by legends such as Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong. Subsequently, it was no surprise that jazz became the dominating voice of popular music.
In the 70 years since then, jazz [also known in the past as 'the devil's music') has become many things to many different people, and the feeling of dark smoky cavern-like clubs, intimate atmospheres, hip cultures, underground movements and 'behind-the-scenes-goings-on' has remained firmly attached to it - even if there have been newer, bigger Jazz halls created to adapt to the more modernised less 'underground' nature of live music today. Jazz is now a music culture with a special corner for everyone.
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Charles Mingus was unique. His influences were eclectic, ranging from New Orleans Jazz through swing, bop and latin to modern classical and avant-garde. Although his playing was strong and impressive, it's his writing and approach to making music that put him in a league of his own. By the mid 1950s he had worked out a totally personal way of getting his musical vision across, which involved his "dictating" parts to musicians, but at the same time leaving plenty of room for individual expression. At the same time it was this massive energy and enormous presence that served to turn what could have become musical chaos in to some of the most distinctive and remarkable music ever produced in jazz.
This CD, one of the last records of his work, demonstrates all of Mingus's abilities, his writing, his playing, and his ability to organise an ensemble. He had a great respect for the traditions of the music, and so we find Lionel Hampton who, at the time of this recording was almost 70, under Mingus's watchful eye producing some of his best playing of that era. The band itself is full of fine players, notably Mingus's old friend and ally Danny Richmond on drums, and watch out for another Jazz great hidden amongst the horns, the remarkable Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. It speaks volumes for the respect in which Mingus was held that players such as Hampton and Mulligan would turn out for him. This would be one of the last recording dates that Mingus would actively participate in, and one feels that all the players on this album really wanted to "do it" for him. The soloing is universally strong, the feel of each of the tracks is typically Mingus, and the whole thing serves as a masterful tribute to a great, if highly complex, man and musician.
- Steve Rubie-606 Club-Nov'99