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Great two album set - marks Mingus' entre into the mainstream

  • Aug 24, 2013
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This is a wonderful two-album set that marks Mingus' initial foray into the mainstream. The compositions on the first album are all composed by Mingus except one - a Gershwin standard - and the compositions on the second are all Mingus'.

Since there are no sound samples on this page at the time of this review you can listen to them by following the links to each album. The first four tracks are from the 1956 album titled Pithecanthropus Erectus and the remaining tracks are from the follow-on album (with a different line-up) from 1957 titled The Clown.

On the first, having Jackie McLean's alto sax against J. R. Monterose's tenor sax may have something to do with my affinity for this album. McLean in particular is one of my favorite alto saxophonists, so that is probably a factor. I am also a fan of Mal Waldron's earlier work and his playing on this album - along with Mingus on bass and Willie Jones on drums make for a solid rhythm section. This album was recorded for Atlantic in their NYC studios on January 30, 1956. Even though this album contains only four tracks it still clocks in a little short of thirty-seven minutes, which is about average for an album recorded and released in 1956.

The Clown marks drummer Dannie Richmond's entry into Mingus' various ensembles and he would prove to be Mingus' muse and soulmate. Other personnel are Shafi Hadi on alto and tenor Saxophones, Jimmy Knepper on trombone, Wade Legge on piano and Jean Shepherd. My favorite track is "The Clown", which is narrated by Jean Shepherd of A Christmas Story fame. The other track that I consider to be a highlight is "Haitian Fight Song" in which Mingus takes a solo that shows his mastery of his instrument (I tend to forget what a virtuoso bassist he was because his antics and his compositional genius sometimes eclipsed his skill on bass.) The remaining tracks are interesting: "Blue Cee" is a blues in C and "Reincarnation of a Lovebird" is a paean to Charlie Parker. Both nicely round out the album, which is slightly over 40 minutes long. This album was recorded over two sessions at Atlantic's NYC studios on February 13 and March 12, 1957 and released later that year.

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About the reviewer
Mike Tarrani ()
Ranked #284
My day job is in the technology sector as an IT consultant specializing in ITIL, and specifically, configuration, change and release management. I've traveled the world as a consultant before moving … more
About this product


Digitally remastered two-fer containing a pair of the Jazz bassist's most celebrated albums on one disc: Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956) and The Clown (1957). Includes 16 page booklet. Essential Jazz Albums. 2009.
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