Mingus Among Us

“So Long Eric”, a 5:29 jazz video break, giving one pause: Wither small group ideas now?
Charles Mingus with saxophonists Eric Dolphy & Clifford Jordan, pianist Jaki Byard, drummer Dannie Richmond, Belgium 1964 — heroes, living. (Music comes up first– raucous “Fables of Faubus” — click “Watch Videos” at bottom of page)

There’s a muscular confidence — emphatic rhythmic drive (swing, they call it) — and they exude class, too. Organized, but not repressed energy. This video clip comes as part of a Blue Note Records release of the same Mingus Quintet performing at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), the same year. It’s an original song, memorable, not forced. Everybody gets a solo — tenorist Jordan mulls his about, Mr. Byard typically throws a screwball into his final chords, and where does Dolphy’s outburst of wacky angularity come from? Mingus and Richmond are unphased, in calm control.
There are contemporary small group equivalents — bassist Dave Holland (here with trombonist Robin Eubanks, altoist Steve Coleman, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and drummer Marvin Smitty Smith, from 1986) comes to mind as a leader who assign composed parts and makes them work for his players, setting them free (though who equals Dolphy for breathtaking individuality?); Holland’s current sextet plays the the New York Blue Note next week (Aug. 21-26). Henry Threadgill, reeds/winds composer, who hasn’t been around much lately (I don’t find a worthy video clip). His buddy David Murray (also a Dolphyite, now living in Paris); pianist Myra Melford, who constructs her pieces for variety and dramatic arc (also no good clip yet!), voracious reedsman James Carter, when he has a special project in hand. Marty Ehrlich, a scrupulous saxophonist-clarinetist bandleader . . . Ok, when I think about it, a lot of fine musicians are advancing music that partakes of the clarity of statement and flow-through with shifts that Mingus and company introduced and developed. I’ve barely scratched the surface of those in his debt.
Just thought you’d like to see & hear some of it — here’s Dolphy playing clarinet with Mingus et al (Johnny Cole is the trumpeter) from Norway. Follow that kinky line!



  1. says

    Wow! A post about my favorite composer (Mingus) and his band that draws a comparison with my favorite current working band (Dave Holland’s).
    While I certainly agree he doesn’t equal Dolphy for breathtaking individuality, I propose that Robin Eubanks is stunningly original in his own right. (He’s not a drummer, but he’s Holland’s foil in much the same way that Dannie Richmond was Mingus’s.)