Quote Unquote

Homages, paraphrases, and glorious messes from Ornette, Sonny, and Mingus

Musicians marketing their own product is nothing new, of course. Still miffed at being allotted only 20 minutes at the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival, Charles Mingus must have felt the title was self-explanatory when he released Music Written for Monterey, 1965 Not Heard . . . Played in Its Entirety, at UCLA—featuring a brass-heavy octet with tuba, French horn, and three trumpets—as a limited-edition, mail-order-only double LP the following year. Its first and only pressing was 200 copies. Reissued on East Coasting in 1984 (which is how anybody ever heard it), it's at long last available on CD. It opens with "Meditation on Inner Peace," after which Mingus redoes his bass intro for an intended splice he never got around to making. Following two aborted attempts at "Once Upon a Time, There Was a Holding Company Called Old America" (renamed "The Shoes of the Fisherman's Wife" on Let My Children Hear Music six years later), he sends half the band off to rehearse and bullies the four he keeps through a medley of bebop anthems that skirts the borders of free jazz. Later on, along with a revisionist "Muskrat Ramble" and Mingus asking the student promoter to meet him backstage so he can get paid, we hear the full band do "Once Upon a Time" in its entirety, plus a few other bold, if hesitantly performed, originals—the most stunning a tempestuous series of variations on "Body and Soul" featuring Hobart Dotson, a shadowy high-note specialist with chops and imagination comparable to Gillespie's.

Ornette Coleman, the sleeping amateur poet's eternal muse
photo: Jimmy Katz
Ornette Coleman, the sleeping amateur poet's eternal muse


Ornette Coleman
Sound Grammar
Sound Grammar

Sonny Rollins
Sonny, Please

Charles Mingus
Music Written for Monterey, 1965 Not Heard . . . Played in Its Entirety, at UCLA
Mingus Music/Sunnyside

It's a mess, but the sort of big mess only genius can get itself into. Demonstrating better than anything else in his discography the risks Mingus took in treating improvisation like composition, it illuminates a lost chapter in his life—he followed it with six years of silence while he worked on his autobiography and wrestled with bipolar disorder. Think of it as a dress (or undress) rehearsal for Let My Children Hear Music, his crowning achievement of the '70s, and it becomes nothing short of essential. Besides, except for Sun Ra's Jazz in Silhouette, where else are you going to hear Hobart Dotson solo?

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