Charlie Mingus: East Coasting

Opening with a three-a.m. walk down a city street with a particular lonely take on the standard “Memories Of You,” this reissue of one of Mingus’ less acclaimed releases instantly shows its superior mastering quality— aiding the dynamic sections without feeling the need to compress.There is still a rawness and a static in the recording, however, that gives a vibrancy and a veracity that is needed in any true jazz album.

The focus here is on contrast, seemingly. Soft sections can move swiftly and often unexpectedly into more upbeat and frenetic moods. Many solos are taken, of course, but the feel gravitates more towards the sequencing of disparate parts together to find a more fulfilling format than chorus-solo-chorus.

This kind of approach is ubiquitous, but pervasive nonetheless. The wonderful dynamics of “West Coast Ghost” are ceaselessly intriguing in their construction, such as moving from Shafi Hadi’s tasteful, bodied tenor solo into Bill Evans’ distant and haunting turn. East Coasting’s title cut works on a more upbeat dynamic, with startling shifts as well. The marvelous “Conversation” is a very funky number; the instruments that are indeed quite conversational in a Peanuts “adults speaking” way.

Mingus’ East Coasting features some of his finest collaborators—a young Evans, for instance, who displays a more aggressive style on this recording than he did less than a year later with Miles Davis. Trumpeter Clarence Shaw and sax player Hadi both display formidable skill despite their relative obscurity both before and after this release.

An excellent reissue of an exceptional album; hats off to Bethlehem for their approach to this new series of underrated material.

In Two Words: Mingus Dew