Tonight at Noon is, essentially, a compilation album -- although not in the usual sense. There are two distinct sessions that make up its contents: a 1957 date with Jimmy Knepper on trombone, drummer Dannie Richmond, saxophonist Shafi Hadi, and pianist Wade Legge, and a 1960 session with Booker Ervin, Roland Kirk on saxes, Knepper, bassist Doug Watkins, Mingus on piano, and Richmond. The feel of the two sets is different to be sure, but this is far from throwaway material; the tunes here are actually studio outtakes from the recordings for The Clown and Oh Yeah. While the former session features Mingus going for the blues via European harmonics and melodic approaches with hard bop tempos (particularly on the title track), the latter session with its nocturnal elegance and spatial irregularities comes off more as some kind of exercise in vanguard Ellington with sophisticated harmonies that give way to languid marches and gospel-tinged blues. Kirk and Ervin are particularly suited to one another, because they both swing hard and reach for the fences. Mingus' pianism is deeply rooted in blues, and that sense of pace and easiness informs these tracks, particularly "'Old' Blue for Walt's Torin." Hints of the material Mingus would record for Columbia on Ah Um are in these compositions. The most beautiful piece is from the 1957 session and closes the album: "Passions of a Woman Loved" is a nearly ten-minute workout that feels like an Ellington suite. Despite the fact that this is an assembled album, it holds plenty of magic nonetheless.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek