Listen Up: Wednesday, September 05, 2007
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy

Cornell 1964
(Blue Note)

By Tom Geddie

The simply titled Cornell 1964 is one of the previously undiscovered gems from the too-short career of jazz genius composer, arranger, and bass player Charles Mingus. This first-time release, recorded March 18, 1964, at the New York college, was preserved by Mingus’ widow.
Before this recording, the sextet had spent two months at New York’s Five Spot, giving the members time to learn one another’s styles. Included were long-time Mingus players Jaki Byard (piano) and Dannie Richmond (drums), along with Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), Johnny Coles (trumpet), and the other star in the title, multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. The innovative bass clarinet and flute player wasn’t with the sextet long. He died a little more than three months later, on June 29, 1964.
The two discs run a little over two hours, including half-hour versions of two of Mingus’ own trademark compositions, “Fables of Faubus” and “Meditations,” along with his “Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk.” The sextet also interprets “Take the A Train,” “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” and “Jitterbug Waltz.” Mingus adds a bass solo of “Sophisticated Lady.” The only negative is Byard’s solo exercise in dexterity at the piano that sounds oddly dated and unsatisfying, while most of the material here remains fresh.
Dolphy was recognized with the 15-minute tune “So Long Eric.” While the song came to be known as a lament, it was really, as noted jazz critic Gary Giddens points out in the liner notes, a celebration of Dolphy’s presence.
The mercurial Mingus apparently was in a playful mood in front of a polite, receptive audience that night. The exuberant version of the integration-themed “Fables of Faubus” includes, in addition to extended solos, snippets of such familiar songs as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and Chopin’s “Funeral March” — they add to, rather than detract from, the performance.
The primary success of Cornell 1964 is that it helps keep alive the well-earned legacies of these fine, too-soon-gone musicians.


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