Charles Mingus

The Unique

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Issued on the import Acrobat label, The Unique was originally released in at least two earlier incarnations, first as an LP entitled Lionel Hampton Presents Charles Mingus on Hampton's Giants of Jazz label, and in 2002 as Lionel's Sessions on the Universe imprint. Many of these tracks were released on subsequent postmortem recordings on Atlantic. These sessions were recorded in 1977, with Charles Mingus at the beginning of a serious decline in health that would result in his death in 1979. Hampton assembled a band that included not only himself, but Ricky Ford, Gerry Mulligan, Dannie Richmond, Jack Walrath, Woody Shaw, and Paul Jeffrey, with Mingus holding down the bass chair. Here are new versions of "Fables of Faubus," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," and "So Long Eric." In addition, "Farewell, Farewell" and "Peggy's Blue Skylight," along with the two-part "Just for Laughs," are included, giving this a wonderful big-band feel. The problem is that Hampton is so prevalent on these sessions, in both his instrument and personality, that they feel like recordings from his prime in the '40s and '50s rather than as current works and re-workings of Mingus classics. The playing is expert but dry and the charts are certainly brilliant, but they feel watered down, more accessible, and less challenging; they lack the spark that is Mingus' alone.

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