Charles Mingus, The Clown, 1957.
As any album by a bassist perhaps should, The Clown begins with an unaccompanied introduction to the mighty, menacing instrument that Mingus, the angry man of jazz, will wield over the next four forays into passionate, post-bop perfection. The first minute of the first piece, "Haitian Fight Song", sees the instrument sway drunkenly, yet somehow precisely, in its master's massive hands, groaning its earthy tones before the bells, drums, piano and horns join the fray. Tension builds, tempos change, tenderness tussles with aggression, and we realize we are a part of something beautiful, if not monumental. This music travels,and when Mingus solos again after ten minutes, you felt like you've really been somewhere, and that bass, just dying to be sampled if it hasn't already been, feels like an old friend.
Ambitiously modern yet grounded in tradition, the four pieces on The Clown draw from, interpolate, convey and reference elements of blues, bop, folk, swing, Turkish tango, and even Bizet's Carmen. This music is deep and colourful, dense and vibrant. With the musicians howling and laughing here and there, speeding up and sloooowing dooooown, there are plenty of playful passages, too. (Continued in comments)
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