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Anyone with a good knowledge of jazz music would mistakenly think this album was from the Avant Garde era but in fact, it was recorded in 1956. Just proving again how advanced Charles Mingus was and how much influence he actually had on the future of jazz. His attitude towards his fellow band members was to allow them to constantly experiment as they played. Of course, this is referred to as improvising but Mingus left much bigger gaps for the others to fill and on the fly. This album is a excellent example and could be considered as one of his best and ever recorded. The name of this album is “Pithecanthropus Erectus“ and will honorably be featured for all the Jazz Con Class listeners. It will be on the rotation for a couple of weeks, check the schedule link for play times, ENJOY!
Review of Album (All Music):
Pithecanthropus Erectus was Charles Mingus’ breakthrough as a leader, the album where he established himself as a composer of boundless imagination and a fresh new voice that, despite his ambitiously modern concepts, was firmly grounded in jazz tradition. Mingus truly discovered himself after mastering the vocabularies of bop and swing, and with Pithecanthropus Erectus he began seeking new ways to increase the evocative power of the art form and challenge his musicians (who here include altoist Jackie McLean and pianist Mal Waldron) to work outside of convention. The title cut is one of his greatest masterpieces: a four-movement tone poem depicting man’s evolution from pride and accomplishment to hubris and slavery and finally to ultimate destruction. The piece is held together by a haunting, repeated theme and broken up by frenetic, sound-effect-filled interludes that grow darker as man’s spirit sinks lower. It can be a little hard to follow the story line, but the whole thing seethes with a brooding intensity that comes from the soloist’s extraordinary focus on the mood, rather than simply flashing their chops. Mingus’ playful side surfaces on “A Foggy Day (In San Francisco),” which crams numerous sound effects (all from actual instruments) into a highly visual portrait, complete with honking cars, ringing trolleys, sirens, police whistles, change clinking on the sidewalk, and more……Read More
Album Liner Notes:
I remember the stisfaction in Mingus’s voice when he read me, on the phone back then, that section of his notes below dealing with this album’s title composition. He had taken a rather huge theme, on which he had been brooding extramusically for a long time, and had not only transformed it into music but had also brought his colleagues into a sharing of his bold, grim vision. As Mingus explains in his notes, he could not have done that by simply setting score paper in front of his musicians. They had to “learn” it by hearing it from Mingus and then finding their own routes, within his design, to understanding the rise and fall of Pitheconthropus Erectus.
On the other tracks here, and in all of Mingus’s collective discoveries that were to come, his musicians were similarly compelled to dig into themselves. As one Mingus alumnus told me recently, “He would yell at you in the middle of a solo: ‘Stop playing licks and get into yourself!’ Christ, he had more confidence in what we were capable of than we did.”
Here, for instance, you can hear the stretching of Jackie McLean, J. R. Monterose, Mal Waldron, and Willie Jones. And of Mingus himself, of course. In its joy and rage and remembrance of loves post, in its celebration of the life force – Mingus’s was serious music. To paraphrase the English writer on jazz, Valerie Wilmer, it was as serious as his life. As Mingus himself said: “In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.”
Yet, certain themes, certain preoccupations, concerned – and sometimes consumed – Mingus all his life. He often spoke, for instance, of Pithecanthropus Erectus because he often thought of the future of the species. At times he felt, and his music reflected this, that we might yet learn – before it’s too late to learn any thing how shatteringly destructive the false security of the enslaver can be…..Read More