Not only was Charles Mingus (1922-1979) one of the
greatest Jazz bassists, but he was also one of the most
significant composers in the genre. A while back, I watched
him give a 1975 “Live at Montreux” DVD performance,
featuring his quintet of pianist Don Pullen (1941-1995),
drummer Dannie Richmond (1931-1988) and trumpeter
Jack Walrath (1946 – ). I felt that the informal Montreux
setting was ideal for this music. The set began conservatively
and transformed into wailing excursions, as the pieces
progressed. Although Mingus’ music normally pushed the
envelope in one way or another, he wasn’t content to stick
to the Bop/Post-Bop forms. He often invented new ones and
always surrounded himself with musicians whom he
encouraged to explore the nether regions of tonality,
on their respective instruments.
That was the case here, where Don Pullen played runs
reminiscent of Cecil Taylor (1929 – ) and George Adams
(1940-1992) pushed his saxophone into atonal territory
with flurries of notes. But as I’ve mentioned above, the
main set of three pieces would begin and end in
conservative, “listener friendly” territory. In fact, during
the third piece of 33 minutes, Mingus actually bowed the
E and G strings of his bass from underneath the strings.
“Exploration” was definitely the watchword.
After the first hour, the quintet was joined by baritone
saxophonist Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996) and trumpeter
Benny Bailey (1925-2005) for a couple of songs,
including “Take the A Train.” Bailey played brilliantly, and
it was nice to see the famous and influential Mulligan,
at this stage in his career.
The sound of this 85-minute disc from Eagle Vision
was decent, and I’d recommend this DVD for the
adventurous. I’m glad that I watched it.