CHARLES MINGUS / Mingus Tijuana Moods Mixtape
The acoustic bass was his main instrument, although he also played a mean piano. Indeed, Mingus’ solo piano recording, Mingus Plays Piano, is one of my favorite recordings. Mingus excelled not just as an instrumentalist but also as a band leader, from small combos to big bands. Thirdly, Mingus was one of the major composers in the jazz idiom.
There are all kinds of wild stories about Mingus, but let’s focus right now on the music. I identify three major Mingus recordings that are absolutely essential for any significant modern jazz collection: Tijuana Moods (recorded in 1957 but not released until 1961), Mingus Ah Um (1959, the great year of modern jazz), and The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963). In due time I will get to the other two but for now, savor three of the five selections from Tijuana Moods.
Mingus composed music but he made the music most come alive when he led his band mates in performance. In one sense he pushed his cohorts to play above and beyond themselves. Although he always chose fine musicians to work with, most of the musicians did not produce as high a caliber of music under their own leadership as they did paying with Mingus.Mingus offered challenging music, brilliant arrangements and a demanding albeit effusive leadership style that focused on both technical accomplishment and creative chaos. That was often Mingus verbally exhorting the band with hollers, moans, grunts and groans. Mingus’ music is some of the most stirring and emotionally rich music ever recorded. Tijuana Moods has a back story of a wild weekend in the Mexican border town where Mingus repaired to in order to over come the blues of a busted marriage. There has only been one other major “divorce” recording with which I am familiar: Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear. Gaye’s stunning album sounds like it was recorded in a court room—there is drama a plenty but also a muted decorum. Mingus was in a barroom getting drunk and hollering out his frustrations.
The three cuts included on the Mixtape represent three major moods. First there is “Dizzy Moods” a sonic map of the trip southward, anticipating a wildly wonderful bacchanal; then we get “Ysabel’s Table Dance” and the title pretty much tells you what to expect, the concluding number is a somberly reflective interpretation of the popular song “Flamingo.”I urge you to check out the whole album. Tijuana Moods is a magnificent statement by a band consisting of Mingus on bass, Clarence Shaw on trumpet, Safi Hadi (aka Curtis Porter) on sax, Jimmy Knepper on trombone, Bill Triglia on piano, Danny Richmond on drums, augmented by vocals from Ysabel Morel and castanets played by percussionist Frankie Dunlop. I vividly remember listening to this back in the early sixties. I was enthralled then and am no less impressed listening now fifty years later. This superb Mingus music is simply essential. —Kalamu ya Salaam Mingus Tijuana Moods Mixtape Playlist
01 “Dizzy Moods”
02 “Ysabel’s Table Dance”
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