essential, enthralling, blistering, electric, unparalleled intensity, fiery.
Charles Mingus (bass, piano); Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet); Ted Curson (trumpet); Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone); Danie Richmond (drums); Bud Powell (piano)
Recorded on 13th July 13, 1960, at the Antibes Jazz Festival
Prayer For Passive Resistance / Better Get Hit In Your Soul / Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting / Folk Forms 1 / What Love? /I’ll Remember April
Just some of the words written to describe this album: engaging, raucous, commanding, roaring, boisterous, driven, amazing, passionate, incandescent, rumbustious, gospel, spiritual, soulful, acceptable, avant garde, driving, new creativity, potpourri of influences, huge sound, essential, enthralling, blistering, electric,unparalleled intensity, fiery.
Short tempered, charismatic, volatile, Mingus produced vital music and writings that are fired by his views on racism. He was a dominant force. Mingus always considered that he was underappreciated. Around this time, he had created numerous works in the studios that were tinged by his admiration for Duke Ellington and were firmly rooted in black music. He had worked with this group at the New York Showplace night club where most of this music was developed.
‘Prayer For Passive Resistance’ is driven by Booker Ervin who starts his weighty, Texas tenor prayer, his unpretty tone concealing his innate melodic sense. Mingus vocally pushes the tenor player to do more. The change of rhythm by Richmond and Mingus slows and shows the kind of telepathy that marked their work. Tony Williams is often credited with pioneering changes of tempo mid piece. Mingus and Dannie Richmond were doing that four or five years earlier.
‘Better Git Hit In Your Soul’. Mingus starts rock solid with the profound deep, springy elastic sound from his bass. You are aware of an arrangement under the passionate angular solo of Ted Curson. The rhythm stops and the band hand clap to accompany the tenor of Booker Ervin. This is seismic church music presented by Mingus and Dannie Richmond. Dolphy solos to the sound of hand clapping. this is new music, still is new music. The tempo has changed. Dannie Richmond urges the arrangement forward under Dolphy’s idiosyncratic sounds. Put your 1960 ears on and imagine you’re in the French audience listening to this. Dannie Richmond takes a rare drum solo before Ted Curson returns; Dannie Richmond is at the core of everything in this group, propelling the group forward. You can hear Mingus cajoling the ending.
‘Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting’. Mingus sets the tempo. Curson’s first solo has avant garde high notes over a subtle rhythm from Dannie Richmond. it is an impassioned solo and a testament to Mingus taste. He was right about Curson and the rest of the jazz judges were wrong. The rest of the group riff behind Booker Ervin. The changed rhythm brings in Dolphy with his bird calls over the riffs. Dolphy plays over the hand clapping. It’s a solo of breathtaking invention. This is a quintet with the energy of a much larger group.
‘Folk Forms 1’ was laid down for Candid in October 1960. Making no effort to engage the audience with a tune, each section opens with a soloist, though this is more of a collective improvisation. This is Mingus looking back to earlier jazz and that is one of the strengths of the album. The collective playing looks back to New Orleans. Mingus can acknowledge the past without it impeding the forward movement.
‘What Love?’ was also recorded for Candid in October 1960. The piece is based on ‘What is This Thing Called Love?’ The slow melody starts with a Curson solo which changes tempo. The next Mingus solo shows the beauty of his bass playing. There is time to appreciate the depth of the sound. Dolphy enters to start one of the most enthralling duets in the whole of jazz. Mingus and Dolphy engage in a musical conversation ranging from angry to sad. This is new jazz at its most original and lucid. The audience seem unsure how to react. Some commentators say that people boo. Do they?
Bud Powell joins the group for the last piece. Powell was not in the best of health physically or mentally and the accompanying group play more conventionally.
Why is this album, this music, special? The first element that is obvious is the driven, energy. This was a group at the height of its power. The newness of the music and it still sounds new, probably even more approachable. It is embedded in black music taking its inspiration from the past and the present, from swing, blues, bop, gospel. Mingus was simultaneously gazing into the past and looking into the future. Mingus was trying to find a way forward; his creative dissatisfaction keeping the jazz spirit blazing.