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On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ...

Mingus Moving On



Ellington Money Jungle

Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Charels Mingus.


'Mingus played with his childhood hero Duke Ellington a few times in the late forties, but found it a surprisingly ungratifying exprience. The two men were too close to each other musically and too wary of each other personally to hit it off. It did not help Mingus's confidence, and there followed a period of drift when he seems to have stopped playing.


Listen to Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus with Money Jungle.





It was around this time that Mingus married for a second time. Celia Zaentz was a very different person from Camilla Cross, and acted as her husband's manager. The same sort of tensions that had arisen between Armstong and Lil Hardin plagued Mingus and Celia, but these were eased by a similar mutual respect and affection.

Eventually he was rescued from idleness by the white vibes player Red Norvo who asked him to play in a trio which also included guitarist Tal Farlow. So, leaving the epic scope and rich voicing of the Hampton and Ellington bands behind him, Red Norvo TrioMingus joined one of the most delicate, minimalist jazz chamber groups ever put together.


Tal Farlow, Charles Mingus and Red Norvo
(There is a better image under copyright here)


Mingus's work with this group is often overlooked, but it constitutes a body of beautiful and precise chamber jazz. The trio format pushed Charlie's bass into prominence, so that it could play a melodic role as important as that of the vibes and guitar, thus fulfilling his early ambitions for the instrument. On these sessions Mingus showed a surprising degree of respect for the sort of standard tunes the trio played such as, I've Got You Under My Skin, and he demonstrated what a sensitive listener he could be. It is largely due to Mingus's innate melodic gift and strong jazz roots that the trio's limpid chamber music managed to avoid the preciousness of the modern jazz quartet, or the banalities of gutless cocktail jazz.




Listen to If I Had You by the Red Norvo Trio with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus.





Mingus certainly did not look like a minimalist. By this time he was a massively built man with huge upper arms, and a face which could turn from thoughtful to glowering with alarming alacrity. He was a big eater, ice cream being a particular obsession, and according to his rather lurid semi-fictional autobiography Beneath The Underdog, he had a fierce sexual appetite too. It seemed unlikely that Red Norvo's genteel trio could contain such a personality for long, and indeed, for whatever reason, Mingus went his own way after about a year.'

From Jazz Greats by David Perry


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