ROIO of the Week [Recordings of Indeterminate Origin]
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And Dolphy's Last Waltz
There are several reasons to be excited. First, 1964 was the last year of saxophonist Eric Dolphy's life. Dolphy died on June 27 in Berlin. This gig took place on April 16 in Bremen. And it's amazing to hear him play brilliantly right till the end. Two, this sextet consisting of Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), Johnny Coles (trumpet), Jaki Byard (piano), Danny Richmond (drums) plus Dolphy, was considered the best group that Mingus had. Mingus, who was always capable of surprises and impromptu decisions, could always count on this unit to second guess him and go with the flow. Third, Wolfson has managed to segue the tracks together so that instead of having to flip over the vinyl record, you can hear all the long tracks, for example 26 minutes of Hope So Eric (aka So Long Eric), in their glorious entirety. Finally, the hundreds of pops and clicks, if you have a scratched vinyl copy, have been cleaned up.
To put this recording in perspective, one ought to hear Town Hall Concert, 1964 (Jazz Workshop/Fantasy Records), recorded April 4 in New York before the group departed on that fateful European tour. Rated a classic today, all one needs to do is put it on and hear the level of intensity, invention and focus this band had.
So Long Eric was only posthumously titled after Dolphy's death. Interestingly, the sextet was suddenly reduced to quintet after a week of touring when Coles collapsed on stage during the performance of So Long Eric on April 17 in Paris. (You can hear this line-up minus Coles on the classic The Great Concert of Charles Mingus.) This is the day after this Bremen recording on Ingo records. On the Ingo record, So Long Eric is titled as Hope So Eric. It's a longer version of 26 mins compared to the Town Hall's 18 mins. What has always been irritating is that on the vinyl edition, Side One ends just when you hear Dolphy coming in for his solo which takes up a full seven minutes. That is how much fire Dolphy breathed into Mingus' music.
The Town Hall Concert was also famous for being the first time that Meditations was played in its entirety of 27 mins. Mingus had rehearsed parts of the composition at other gigs but he "surprised" the band by playing the complete version live. Again, as a tribute to Dolphy, he titled it Praying With Eric. It's a beautiful piece for Dolphy as he played with all the tonal colours of his instruments alternating on alto sax, bass clarinet and ending on flute. This appeared on Volume III on Ingo Records.
The other Mingus chestnut is Fables of Faubus that takes up all of Vol II on Ingo records. Fables was a protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus, who sent out the National Guard in 1957 to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School by nine African American teenagers. First recorded for Mingus Ah Um (1959), the lyrics were suppressed by Columbia Records for being too controversial to release. They were finally recorded the next year on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (Candid, an independent label). In reference to the censorship the song suffered from, it was titled Original Faubus Fables.
Here's a sample of those "controversial words" - "Oh, Lord! don't let 'em shoot us!/Oh, Lord! don't let 'em stab us!/Oh, Lord! don't let 'em tar and feather us!/Oh, Lord! no more swastikas!/Oh, Lord! no more Ku Klux Klan!"
The version here is instrumental but all the anguish, satire and irony are still felt over 35 mins.
And just to make it clear that Mingus would have been happy about this Ingo Records bootleg, the original Town Hall Concert was only recorded through the financial help of the civil rights group, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
As Mingus noted on the album sleeve: "With disgust for the American recording industry, I give you, the public, this day seven people set to free themselves in music."
Amen. - Philip Cheah
Click on the highlighted
tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality, stereo MP3s - sample
rate of 192 kibit/s). As far as we can ascertain, none of these tracks
have been officially released.
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