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CD REVIEW Charles Mingus: The Great Concert of Charles Mingus


Jazz may have died as a marketable musical genre several decades ago, but fans of swinging and squawking have more options than ever, thanks to a litany of ambitious reissues. However, none in recent memory matches the July 2004 release of bassist Charles Mingus' long out of print 1964 concert at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Mingus' mid-60s sextet was recognized as one of the most imaginative and challenging anywhere in jazz, and the numerous releases resulting from their 1964 European tour have all been acclaimed enough that to call one in particular "The Great Concert" is laughable--until you hear the set. When Mingus swings on "So Long Eric," it's a furious, heavy, almost industrial thump--I don't know whether to nod along or mosh. When he bows his bass and riles his legendary band into a wailing, stomping, post-bop reverie on the 20-minute "Meditations on Integration," the result covers more emotional and sonic ground than most hour-long symphonies. This isn't jazz-as-background music; it is a showcase of the heights of musical passion that remains as exciting and relevant today as when it was released.

--Nicholas Collias