Charles Mingus

Trilogy: The Complete Bethlehem Jazz Collection

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Trilogy: The Complete Bethlehem Jazz Collection Review

by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Charles Mingus' three albums for Bethlehem have the misfortune of being sandwiched between albums like New Tijuana Moods and Mingus Ah Um. The music on these three discs, recorded in the mid-to-late '50s, is quieter and less volatile when compared to these other albums. Bill Evans' appearance on East Coasting gives the listener a chance to sample his style a few months before he went to work for Miles Davis. His non-bluesy tone and mellow approach would seemingly be the antithesis of Mingus' modus operandi, but it works well here. He kicks off "East Coasting" with his distinct touch before giving way to the heavy percussion of the ever-explosive Dannie Richmond. One of the things that separates even a conservative (relatively speaking) Mingus effort from its peers is the babble of instrumental voices on a tune like "West Coast Ghost," with horns bursting from one speaker while the drums and bass thump madly from the other. A Modern Jazz Symposium -- as has been pointed out before -- is not a symposium, though there is a wonderful spoken monologue by Melvin Stewart set against a backdrop of moody, colorful jazz on "Scenes in the City." With the exception of Gillespie's "Wouldn't You," Mingus has written everything on this second disc. The tempo of the lovely "Nouroog" fluctuates between a relaxed mood piece and an upbeat samba, and features nice solo work by trumpeter Bill Hardman. Two standards, "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and "Stormy Weather," appear on The Jazz Experiments of Charlie Mingus. The latter receives a fascinating kick-off by Mingus' bass and Jackson Wiley's cello, though trumpeter Thad Jones brings it all back down to earth with a somewhat typical interpretation. These discs offer an excellent place of entry for those who have always found Mingus a little too far out. Trilogy: The Complete Bethlehem Jazz Collection also offers a good one-stop compilation for any Mingus aficionado unfamiliar with these fine recordings.

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