This anthology collects a number of obscure 78s by Charles Mingus, many of which have not been reissued since they were originally released during the 1940s. Many of the vocal features are fairly traditional ballads, and Mingus was by no means an inventive lyricist, but it is the strong solos by the musicians within these tracks and the often rather progressive arrangements (even if their execution is not always perfect) that generally merit the most attention. One notable exception is Helen Carr's performance on the standard "Say It Isn't So," which opens with a superb bass solo by Mingus. Carr's sultry vocal is also accompanied by her then-husband Donn Trenner on piano; tragically, her only other recordings prior to her premature death were two records for Bethlehem. Among the instrumental tracks, "Shuffle Bass Boogie" is a lively 12-bar blues featuring Mingus at the forefront and fine solos by saxophonists Lucky Thompson and Willie Smith (two of the bigger names among the cast of lesser-known players). Buddy Collette's "Bedspread" is a mid-tempo swinger that is obviously influenced by Duke Ellington, and features some choice solos, especially by tenor saxophonist William "Brother" Woodman and the composer on alto sax. The exotic "Mingus Fingers," originally written by Mingus for Lionel Hampton, showcases Mingus in a boppish solo. Herb Caro, who died at 22, is heard on baritone sax on a big-band version of Mingus' "Story of Love" and on tenor sax in a later remake, which also features Eric Dolphy on alto sax and Russ Freeman on piano. Among the many other musicians heard on this CD are Roy Porter, Art Pepper, Richard Wyands, and Red Callender. Andrew Homzy's thorough liner notes and the many period photographs included provide additional insight into the early career of Charles Mingus. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden