Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes

Album Feature: Mingus at the Bohemia

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Can anyone ever possibly get bored from Charles Mingus and his innovative music. Never a dull moment from Mingus and here’s just another example. It’s a live 1955 recording from Cafe’ Bohemia, the official name of the album is “Mingus at the Bohemia.” Check the schedule link for play times. There is more from this live recording and it is located on another album. I will be featuring in the near future and will refer back to this link, ENJOY!

More on Album:

The songs from “Cafe Bohemia” contain the typical Mingus “Jazz Workshop” characteristics. A concert as work shop meant first of all a live experiment; this is mainly true for his “guest” musician Max Roach in “Percussion Discussion”. Mingus at the Bohemia fixed a moment in time where Mingus found his musical identity.

The first song, “Jump, Monk” is a tribute to Thelonious Monk, but has no connection to Monks music. Mingus rather tried to simulate with his bass play the dance like movements of the great musician. This composition is described by Mingus as “a profile of Monk”, not a complete picture of the man but a side view or one aspect of a complex personality. Actually, it is a double profile because we can see an important aspect of the composer, Mingus. The eight-bar, many-voiced section that keeps alternating with the melody most certainly mirrors the emotional, earthy quality found in both subject and composer. If you listen carefully to the last chorus, you will hear Mingus shout during a couple of the sections, thus bearing out the identity.

Of importance, also, are the compositional techniques used in this piece. Along with given melodic figures, the composer created the form and mood by giving the musicians scales on which they could build their own figures. These figures then had to appear in certain places and also had to maintain the mood of the composition. Listen to the first and last choruses and notice that even though George and Eddie play different notes in comparable places, the mood and feeling are still the same.

The second song, “Serenade in Blue” The compositional devices used here are diminution and agumentation. The melody is first played slow then diminished and played twice as fast. The piano augments the melody in the bridge and it sounds slow again. Once again it is diminished, or played fast, and we go into the blowing choruses.

The above mentioned “Percussion Discussion” is a duet of Mingus and Roach, which was later also used in the Epitaph suite.[2] Just two men playing two instruments that are very rarely found on the stand alone. Two men producing and assortment of rich and exciting sounds. Here is a chance to really enjoy the artistry of Max and Mingus. Notice the clean, true snare sound that Max gets on his highest pitched drum. As he moves from snare drum to tom-tom, there is no doubt that he’s changed intentionally. No muddled indistinct sound here but a real fresh, swinging sound for Max. And he has his earthly qualities too: strong, vigorous, earthy qualities. Mingus is tremendous, matching Max mood for mood. His pizzicato becomes so strong at times that it sounds very close to Max’s percussive effort. Also, for a new concept in jazz sounds, listen to the high, scraping sound Mingus gets on his bass immediately after Max’s cymbal entrance……Learn More

About Cafe’ Bohemia:

During the mid-1950s, Cafe Bohemia was one of the most happening jazz clubs in New York City, a Greenwich Village club where Manhattan’s infections art and intellectual scene thrived. On any given night a visitor might hear Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, or Kenny Dorham holding down the stage, with future cult figure Herbie Nichols taking a turn as intermission pianist.

Jazz greats frequented Café Bohemia as listeners, too — Sonny Rollins, Max Roach and Thelonious Monk among them – checking out the music in the middle of the Greenwich Village scene. Other patrons included novelist Jack Kerouac and painter Larry Rivers. Cafe Bohemia was where saxophonist Cannonball Adderley made his electrifying national-scene debut, Miles Davis got his first great group up to speed, and half a dozen standout records were made.

The style of jazz played there was progressive hard bop, often in minor key and executed at world-class levels of passion and precision…Read More

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