Jazz great Charles Mingus is considered by most critics and aficionados alike to be one of the most important names within the jazz world. From Mingus Ah Um to Cumbia & Jazz Fusion to The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and beyond, the impact and importance of Mingus’ works both as a composer and band leader have been felt throughout the ages. Sadly, the world lost the greatness that was Charles Mingus what seemed too early in 1979 as a result of Lou Gehrig’s disease, otherwise known as ALS. Luckily, his legacy has since lived on through a variety of re-issues and archived live recordings through various labels. This Friday, Feb. 2, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release the latest of those archived concert recordings when it releases Live at Montreux 1975 on a new 2CD set. The companion piece to the concert’s previously released DVD presentation –released via Eagle Rock Entertainment in 2004 — this recording is such a critical piece of Mingus’ history because it would be one of his final live performances before being diagnosed with the disease, playing one of its most pivotal roles. The concert’s set list is just as important to the recording’s presentation as its back story. Last but most definitely not least of note to examine here is the band’s performance throughout the concert. It will be discussed later. Each element noted here is important in its own right. All things considered, Live at Montreux 1975 proves to be a recording that belongs in the home library of Mingus’ fans and jazz aficionados alike.
Eagle Rock Entertainment’s mew 2CD presentation of Charles Mingus Live at Montreux 1975 is a critical piece of Mingus’ history. Even having been previously released on DVD in 2004, it doesn’t lose that importance. As a matter of fact, the very fact that 13 years have passed since that initial release renews that importance. It proves to be such an important recording in no small part because it would be one of his last live performances before ALS would eventually take away his ability to perform or even record. The 85-minute concert presents Mingus and his band mates (at the time) at the top of their game, often times seemingly untamed and at others so smooth yet throughout. This will be discussed later. What’s more, it presents the band performing two of Mingus’ critical albums in whole along with a pair of equally important covers. This will be discussed shortly. All things considered here, the concert itself proves to be a concert that presents Mingus and company at the top of their collective games. With any luck, it will eventually be complimented with a new Blu-ray re-issue that makes up for the concert’s previous DVD re-issue.
The new 2CD presentation of Charles Mingus Live at Montreux 1975 is an important piece of Mingus’ history in part because of its very background, which has been pointed out. That back story is only one element that makes it such an important recording. Its set list is important in its own way. The concert’s set list is its own important part of its presentation. Audiences will note that the 5-song, 85-minute performance lifts from two of Mingus’ most talked about albums — Changes One and Changes Two, both of which were recorded together in 1974 for Atlantic Records — while also adding in a take on Duke Ellington’s hit song ‘Take The A Train’ and Mingus’ own 1959 classic ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.’ Given, it doesn’t encompass the whole of those two albums, but it does present at least three of the albums’ best works. Even more interesting is that while ‘Take The A Train’ is not included on either record, there is a cover of Ellington’s ‘Sound of Love’ included in Changes Two. That cover is replaced here with ‘Take The A Train.’ The inclusion of the Ellington cover — both on and off record — is important to note because during his life and career, Mingus was called the heir apparent to Ellington. Getting back on track, the songs pulled from Changes One and Changes Two get quite the extended takes — takes that are certain to keep listeners’ attention. That is thanks to the group’s performances, the last of the recording’s most important elements.
The performances put on by Mingus and company throughout the course of the concert definitely stand out, as was noted earlier. At times, the performances feel wild and untamed such as in ‘Cell Block F, ‘Tis Nazi U.S.A.,’ and ‘Sue’s Changes.’ At other times, such as in ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ and ‘Devil’s Blues,’ is so much calmer. Mingus’ calm, cool work on the bass on ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ couples expertly with drummer Dannie Richmond and pianist Don Pullen in this song to give it such an enjoyable, relaxed vibe. Saxophonist and trumpeter George Adams and Jack Walrath add their own touch to the song, making it even more smooth. Pullen’s wildly outrageous work on ‘Cell Block F, ‘Tis Nazi U.S.A.’ illustrates quite well the events of the Attica riots. The easygoing vibe of ‘Take The A Train’ from the group in whole stands out just as much. From the playful improved piano line to the time keeping to Mingus’ own work on the bass, listeners can close their eyes and so vividly see passengers getting on and off the train thanks to the group’s work here. It is just one more way in which the group’s performance proves its importance to the concert. Every one of the songs featured in this performance could just as easily. That being the case, it becomes obvious in listening through each performance, why taking in the musicians’ talents, why their performances are so important to this presentation. When they are joined with the recording’s set list and its back story, the end result is a recording that will appeal to jazz fans in general just as much as it will to Mingus’ most devout fans.
Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new Charles Mingus Montreux ’75 2CD set is a presentation that is certain to appeal to any of the famed jazz bassist’s fans and to jazz aficionados in general. The companion piece to Eagle Rock’s 2004 release of the concert recording on DVD, it offers plenty for audiences to appreciate. That is especially considering it is the first time that the recording has been released on CD. The back story behind this concert, and Mingus’ eventual health decline not too long after, adds plenty of interest to the concert. The set list, while not wholly representative of Changes One and Changes Two, presents a rich picture of the albums. The group’s performance over the course of the show’s nearly 90-minute run puts the finishing touch to the recording. Each element, as has been made clear in the discussions here, is important in its own right to the recording’s whole. All things considered, Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new 2CD presentation of Charles Mingus Live at Montreux 1975 proves to be a great companion piece to the concert’s previously released DVD and another piece that Mingus’ fans will appreciate just as much as jazz fans in general. It will be available in stores and online Feb. 2. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:
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