Qwest TV EXCLUSIVE: BBE Records will release a recording of an extraordinary four-hour performance by an inspired Charles Mingus at the Strata Concert Gallery in Detroit in 1973.
This year, three treasures have recently been pulled out of oblivion and are being released. The first, Coltrane, has in fact already been made public, another, Monk in Copenhagen, in 1963, is scheduled to appear in September and finally, one that we are revealing right here: Charles Mingus at the Strata Concert Gallery in 1973.
The golden trio are being presented by BBE, a British label, who have stumbled upon the unpublished work of a legend. It’s nothing less than the Holy Grail for an independent publisher who has the opportunity to unite business (the selling of records) and the pride of a true enthusiast. In the summer of 2017, Barbara Cox, the boss at the Strata Records label, brought together the New York collector Amir Abdullah, of the duo Kon & Amir, and Hermine Brooks, the widow of Roy Brooks (who was on drums during this concert).
In Detroit, in the middle of winter, Charles Mingus emerged from a weeklong residency holed up at Strata Records, with a quintet concert in their gallery. A Label which published only a dozen albums that have become incredibly sought-after, the best of which Amir Abdullah is determined to reissue. Among these very Seventies-style grooves, we find Bert Myrick, The Contemporary Jazz Quintet and the Lyman Woodward Organization, yet no sign of Charles Mingus. Thanks to this record, we now know their paths did cross. At the time, Mingus had already been Mingus for fifteen years: a rebellious double bass player, creator of a major and respected body of work. His classics had been released, including Let My Children Hear Music the year before, in 1972, an album which he later confided was his career favorite.
The unexpected arrival of this unreleased concert is all the more delightful in that it is masterly in Mingus’ hyper-charged style, embodied by blazing soloists Don Pullen (piano), John Stubbelfield (saxophone), and Joe Gardner (trumpet). With the intensity of his hammered-out chords and his percussive playing, Pullen sometimes reminds us of John Coltrane’s McCoy Tyner. In this quintet, Pullen is an inspiring and central voice in the narration throughout the concert: in the tortured and more inflamed version than the original of the all-powerful “Pithecanthropus Erectus” (which criticizes the nature of slavery humanity), as well as in “Orange was the color of her dress, then blue silk”, or the bewitching and little-known ballad “Dizzy Profile” (what a solo!) led by the brass section.
As for Mingus, there is the talent that made him famous: the power of the compositions (they are almost all by him), the sheer amount of energy expended, the ease with which he wrote melodies, the flirtation with free jazz … though less of the orchestral and pre-written aspect of his greatest studio recordings. On stage at the Strata Concert Gallery in Detroit, the emphasis was on improvisation and laying down the rules in tracks that average about 15 minutes each. This important concert was also recorded in such closed quarters that, as Amir says, “gives us the impression of being there”: “You can clearly hear members of the audience humming along, singing the band’s praises and their offhand conversations. You can feel the presence of Mingus as if you were in the same room, right next to him and the band. The lively joking between Mingus and the band (and at times the crowd) give the listener a front-row seat.”