Mingus x 5

An LP copy of 'Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus' by Charles Mingus et al.

Looking around the Music One record shop in Abergavenny late last year I’d seen a few things that had caught my eye but only one – an LP including a couple of string quartets by the ‘Spanish Mozart’, Juan Cris√≥stomo Arriaga – where the asking price accorded with my unreasonable expectations. Then, among the jazz re-issues, I saw a copy of Charles Mingus' Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus. I set my unreasonable expectations to one side for the moment, and picked up that one too.

This was an album I’d never owned, except as a download of questionable provenance. I’d listened to it, and knew I liked it, but, as is often the case for me with downloaded music, it had fallen out of sight and hence out of mind. On vinyl it sounded magnificent, and every time I’ve played the record it has been a real joy. It’s a kind of retrospective collection featuring re-arrangements for eleven-piece ensemble of several of Mingus' best compositions, plus a memorable rendition of Duke Ellington’s ‘Mood Indigo’.

Why Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, and not Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus or Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus? I’ve yet to find an explanation for that. Not unreasonably the album’s title is often abbreviated as Mingus x 5. As it happens, it’s one of five of the composer’s records I currently own on physical media. I’ve had Mingus Ah Um and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady on CD for many years. I wrote a post about the former on my previous blog. The latter has a sunned and faded spine to show for its decades on the shelf. More recently I also acquired a CD copy of Blues and Roots.

An LP copy of 'Duke's Choice' (aka 'A Modern Jazz Symposium Of Music And Poetry') by Charles Mingus et al.

The once I found an affordable used vinyl copy of a Mingus album in the wild it was Duke’s Choice (credited to the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop). This isn’t some little-known obscurity, but rather a re-titled ‘69 issue of the ‘59 LP A Modern Jazz Symposium Of Music and Poetry. The original title is arguably misleading, with the only poetry on the record being a striking narration on ‘Scenes in the City’ (the opening number) by actor Melvin Stewart. It’s a very good record, if not one of Mingus’ finest. The track ‘Duke’s Choice’, by the way, re-appears on Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus as ‘I X Love’.