Friday, January 26, 2018

Charles Mingus Featuring Eric Dolphy - 1971 - Town Hall Concert

Charles Mingus Featuring Eric Dolphy 
Town Hall Concert 

01. So Long Eric
02. Praying With Eric

Cover states: Recorded at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
In reality: Recorded at Town Hall, NYC on April 4, 1964

Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute – Eric Dolphy
Double Bass, Composed By, Liner Notes – Charles Mingus
Drums – Dannie Richmond
Piano – Jaki Byard
Tenor Saxophone – Clifford Jordan
Trumpet – Johnny Coles

There are a lot of live recordings from 1964 made during Mingus's European tour that are of varying quality. This one was made in New York just before the tour started.  It contains just two numbers (So Long Eric and Praying With Eric) and the recording quality is superior to most of the subsequent recordings made on the tour and for that reason alone this may be the best documentation of how the band sounded at the time. What's more we have the full line-up here including Johnny Coles who was unfortunately taken ill shortly after the tour started. This was also the last appearance Eric Dolphy made in the United States before his untimely death. 
So much is demanded of the musicians who often have to play full-out and at break-neck tempos when negotiating their way around Mingus's music. Each one deals with it in his own way. 
Coles is a delicate, sensitive soloist, who uses a lot of melody and likes to bend notes in the upper register of his trumpet, he solos first and is followed by pianist Jaki Byard. He seems a little shaky at first and so he whacks out some big chords as familiar as a home-coming to the swing blues. 
Clifford Jordan dabbles a bit refusing to employ any of the usual cliches and opting for some rather abstract squeaks and squeals but knowing exactly when to create the bridge whenever the tempo suddenly switches. 
When he's through Mingus and Richmond duet, one of the greatest rhythm sections in jazz trading punches and no-one gets hurt! 
Dolphy is last up, picking out every far-flung note he can find before launching into his almost indecipherable fluid lines completely unperturbed by the impossible tempos. 
The closing theme seems to have been spliced on probably because it would otherwise have been to long for the record. 
Praying With Eric is, of course, Meditations. It's one of Mingus's greatest compositions which seems only to have been performed live and never recorded in the studio. It's a moody piece with classical pretensions. The opening section of bowed bass and piano demonstrates this and when Dolphy comes in on flute it's quite other-worldly more like a recital than a jazz performance... chamber music in fact! 
Unfortunately the music is interrupted by a very quick fade, why, i'm not quite sure. Perhaps, once again, the recording was simply too long to accommodate on vinyl. 
Anyway, it resumes with Byard's piano and soon enough Eric Dolphy has his bass clarinet out, perfectly at home yet out on a limb. The sound of the band is terrific with Byard to the left, Mingus to the right and the crisp clear sound of Dannie Richmond across the middle. 
Coles is caught out by a tempo change but covers up his embarrassment by acting as if nothing had happened. Mingus's bass solo once again quotes popular tunes. 
Jordan takes his turn over some amorphous piano chords repeating staccato riffs and fast lines. The other guys seem to throw things in at random to create a collective feel and Jordan is right on cue for the slow bit that caught Coles out. 
The opening theme returns weird and wonderful. 
Although it has its problems, this is a truly great piece and a great performance.

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