Tonight at Noon: Three of Four Shades of Love marks the 80th anniversary of Charles Mingus' birth and is the seventh recording in a series that pays tribute to his music. The CD features the talents of the Mingus Big Band, a 14-piece rotating ensemble launched in 1991 by the widow of the composer/arranger/bassist, Sue Mingus. The thematic focus of the CD is love and its ten love songs also mark the debut of the Charles Mingus Orchestra, which is featured on four of the songs. The previously unreleased "Love's Fury" features a stellar arrangement by Syl Johnson as well as the very lyrical compositions Charles Mingus never quite received recognition for. Known primarily for his aggressive bebop basslines, these rarely performed compositions are dramatically and beautifully voiced by soloists -- trumpeter Randy Brecker and Craig Handy on "Love Is a Dangerous Thing" and sung emotively by Elvis Costello on his newly penned lyrics for "Invisible Lady," and "Ku-umba" Frank Lacy on the blues-drenched "Black Saint & Sinner Lady." Best bets are the nine-minute "Passions of a Woman Loved" for its pure entertainment and swing value; the four orchestra pieces beginning with the beautiful ballad "Noon Night," a piece originally orchestrated by Günter Schuller for the 1989 Epitaph project of concerts; the title track "Tonight at Noon" for its horn arrangements and upbeat solos from Alex Sipiagin and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts; the samba arrangement of "Eclipse," which makes this song a delight and a reason to keep listening; and Elvis Costello's passionate new version of "Invisible Lady." Boris Koslov and Andy McKee bring their bass lifestyles into each song with the spirit of a live stage performance and allow listeners to revel in their chord positions. This tribute tops previous efforts due to the inclusion of the new Charles Mingus Orchestra and Sue Mingus' tender focus on the gentler side of an artistic genius. A must-have for Charles Mingus enthusiasts.
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein