Sunday, July 16, 2017

Some Weekend Listening - Duke & Mingus

This weekend I finally made the trek up to Bob's Blues and Jazz Mart. The store is fantastically chaotic. There's stuff everywhere and you feel like you're on a treasure hunt (I was enjoying browsing so much that it never occurred to me to snap a couple of photos). Bob was spinning Johnny Cash the whole time I was there (and answering the phone.... "Bob's Blues, Jazz and Johnny Cash Mart").
Charles Mingus Tijuana Moods The Clown

Although it was very tempting to splash out, I restricted myself to one album - Duke Ellington: Piano in the Foreground (Columbia). The 1961 date with Duke's rhythm section - Sam Woodyard (d) Aaron Bell (b) (Bell is replaced by Jimmy Woode on the bonus tracks recorded at a 1957 session) - features the trio playing some lesser-known originals (at least to me) along with a few standards.

The pace throughout is ballad to medium with nothing racing along but there is still plenty to keep the ears engaged. One thing that stood out was Duke's use of space, the pacing, and general economy of his playing. Of the six bonus tracks from the earlier session I found the two takes of "All the Things You Are" a little flowery but the four tracks "Piano Improvisation" (no. 1-4) kicked things along to round things out.

Aside from Money Jungle, I really wasn't familiar with any other Duke piano trio recordings. And due to the scarcity of his trio work it's worth while picking up....  actually "Summertime" is worth the price of admission alone and "Springtime in Africa" hits the spot on a quiet evening in.

Perhaps due to listening to Ellington put Charles Mingus on my mind, so I pulled out Tijuana Moods to be I was reminded I haven't listened to this album nearly enough. Compositionally it's interesting (which shouldn't come as a surprise) and the soloists are on form too. It seems Mingus had a knack for drawing out something a bit extra from those who played with him. Although I have the expanded edition with various takes etc, I concentrated on the 5 tracks that formed the original release.

During one of Hadi's heated solos it dawned on me that I am unaware of work outside of that with Mingus. I'm not sure I'll go seeking it out, but the realization made me a little curious. The same is true with Bobby Few. I know his playing alongside Steve Lacy, but other than that.... nothing. I may need to track down some of Few's albums.

While listening to "Tijuana Gift Shop" something reminded me of The Clown, so I gave that a spin too (just the title track which was recorded a few months before Tijuana Moods). The late 50s was a fertile time for Mingus (and it would continue into the 60s). Considering how much Mingus I have listened to (and enjoyed) over the past 18 years, I don't really feel that much has been absorbed into my own playing.... or if it has it's on a level that I'm unaware of.

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