Beat street

Charles Mingus Quintet

plus Max Roach

Original Jazz Classics/ Universal; CD; Rs. 295

This album, recorded live in1955, shows several facetsof Charles Mingus's greatnessand originality as a bassist,bandleader, composer and arranger.Max Roach, the greatestjazz drummer since 1950,is featured on two tracks("Drums", co-composed byMingus and Roach, and "I'llRemember April", a pop standardbeloved of jazz musicians).

Willie Jones is the drummeron the other four tracks,while Eddie Bert on trombone,George Barrow on tenorsaxophone, and MalWaldron on piano make upthe rest of the band.

As an arranger-composer,Mingus was interested in thepalette of sounds he used topaint a musical picture.

The fast-paced "Drums",for example, is almost entirelya drum solo in which Roachvaries the sounds he getsfrom his drum kit to make apercussion melody, whichBert and Borrow from time totime punctuate with phraseson which they play alternatingnotes.

Mingus too adds a few bassphrases to the drum melodytowards the end.

A similar alternation betweentrombone and saxnotes is heard at the beginningand end of Gershwin's"A Foggy Day", which featuressolo improvisations byBorrow, Waldron, Bert andMingus after Borrow leads onthe theme.

Alternating phrases ontrombone and sax featureagain on the 13-minute renditionof "I'll Remember April",which starts with a bass introon which Roach's backing isoutstanding.

This is a highly unusual interpretationof the pop standard,on which the themeitself is improvised.

Solos on tenor sax and pianoprecede a passage inwhich first sax and then tromboneexchange phrases withdrums.

Drum and tenor sax solosfollow, and then sax andtrombone improvise togetherbefore fading to a false ending,the music then growingloud before the final fade.

Alternating loud and softphrases are used to get an interestingeffect on the themeof "Lady Bird", which alsofeatures a bass intro and seriesof solos from all fivemusicians.

With his outstanding solosand intros, Mingus leads fromthe front, while the other musiciansfollow with good performances.Mingus's presence is felt inthe original arrangements(the interplay between tromboneand tenor sax or the useof soft and loud phrases, forexample) and his equallyoriginal and unusual compositions,"Haitian Fight Song"and "Love Chant".

Mingus was passionateabout his music, and this albumcaptures well his passionand his original musical ideas.

Donald Byrd: Byrd in Hand

Blue Note/ Virgin Records; CD; Rs. 295

With a beautiful, warm toneand facility in improvisation,Donald Byrd was recognisedas a rising trumpet starin the later 1950s.

In this 1959 album, one ofhis earliest as a leader, he isjoined by Pepper Adams onbaritone saxophone, CharlieRouse on tenor sax, WalterDavis Jr. on piano, Sam Joneson bass and Art Taylor ondrums.

The opening track is a popstandard, "Witchcraft". Therest are original compositionsby Byrd (credited with threenumbers) and Davis (whowrote the remaining two).The album thus serves toshowcase their talents ascomposers besides exhibitingthe sextet's skills asmusicians.

The music is set in the thendominant hard bop style, andfor the most part follows theset pattern of a series of soloimprovisations on the variousinstruments after the openingtheme.

On most of the numbers,Byrd (on the left) and the saxophonists(on the right) setup an interesting interplay,with, for instance, Byrd andAdams playing alternatingphrases on the theme, or oneof the saxophonists (most oftenAdams) following Byrd intaking a solo.

Most of the tracks featuresolos by Byrd, Adams, Rouseand Davis. Adams, especially,has a beautiful tone, and thestriking contrast of the deepnotes of his instrument withByrd's trumpet at the highend is a consistent feature ofthe music.

The fast-paced "DevilWhip", one of the Byrd compositions,packs plenty of actioninto four minutes, withan intro on which Byrd andAdams alternate, and shortbut blistering solos by Byrd,Adams, Davis, and Rouse followingthe theme. The samesoloists in the same order arefeatured on the brisk-paced"Bronze Dance", composedby Davis, which also has anintro by him and Jones, andinterestingly, short solophrases by Taylor punctuatingthe work of the soloists.

Another Byrd composition,"The Injuns", again fast, hasByrd and the saxophonists alternatingon the theme andterrific accompaniment byTaylor throughout. Besides,the usual suspects, the soloistshere include Taylor, onwhose drum solo accompaniedby a quiet Davis the trackfades out.

All told, this is a satisfyingalbum with exciting musicdelivered with verve by highlyaccomplished musicians.


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