This Charles Mingus session is a bit of an oddity, in that he is heard with a Japanese big band, Toshiyuki Miyama & His New Herd Orchestra, which augmented his small group. Both Jaki Byard (who wrote the arrangements) and alto saxophonist Charles McPherson were scheduled for this 1977 trip to Japan, but neither of them made the journey, while drummer Al Six left prior to this recording session. As a result, there was insufficient time to rehearse and the music is rather conservative sounding for a Mingus record date, though the bassist's sidemen, including tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Bobby Jones and trumpeter Eddie Preston, valiantly carry on. Unfortunately, pianist Masahiko Sato is no substitute for the eclectic Byard and the languid opener "The Man Who Never Sleeps" fails to catch fire. Far better is Mingus' "O.P.," an energetic tribute to the late bassist Oscar Pettiford, with the leader demonstrating the tempo with his introductory bass solo. "Portrait" could have stood more rehearsal time, as the Japanese brass and rhythm sections sound a bit rough in the ensemble passages. Far from an essential date in Charles Mingus' vast discography, this Denon CD will only be of interest to completists.
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Review by Ken Dryden