Red Norvo was an example of resilient adaptability. During the early '40s, having dissolved his politely accessible swing band, he began performing and recording with musicians who were poised at the cutting edge of modern jazz; the most famous examples being Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Throughout the '40s and well into the '50s, Norvo seemed willing and eager to grow with the brisk and somewhat challenging patterns of the new music. The formation of a trio featuring guitarist Tal Farlow and bassist Charles Mingus (identified at this early date as "Charlie") was a decisively creative development. The recordings assembled here were made in Los Angeles and Chicago between May 3, 1950 and April 13, 1951. Some of these rapid-fire bop lines might evoke the unprecedented velocities attainable on newly constructed highways, or maybe even convey a taste of Benzedrine. While this might at first appear to be mellow postwar entertainment, the subtext and the context for the music are thought-provoking. Near the end of his poetically charged autobiographical novel Beneath the Underdog, Charles Mingus left a bitter account of his experiences as a member of the Red Norvo Trio. Without mincing words he described what it was like touring through the Southern United States with two somewhat careless white men and his white girlfriend, and how he ultimately left the group after a white bassist was hired to fill in for him when the Trio appeared on television. If Norvo had chosen Red Mitchell, Mingus reasoned, he might have been able to believe that it had something to do with his playing. Some leaders would have walked off the gig in protest. Norvo didn't, and Mingus never forgave him for it. The psychological landscape underlying this music, then, is as powerful as anything else that Mingus ever lived through and strove to communicate. Sometimes the trio hovers as if swimming gently across the night sky. "Time and Tide" suggests a passage from Rainer Maria Rilke: "The chiming clocks call each to each, and one sees to the floor of time." The rhythmic pattern used in the intro is a clear precedent for "Ysabel's Table Dance," one of the spicier episodes in Mingus' 1957 Tijuana Moods album.
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