|What a privilege it also is to present this still underrated music to audiences in Quebec and abroad, year in year out, with my friends and colleagues Jean Derome, Ivanhoe Jolicœur, Mathieu Bélanger, Claude Lavergne and, in the past, the late Michel Ouellet.
Right from this band’s inception, I had decided to include a few Mingus tunes in a repertoire of original compositions. In fact, my first two albums testify to this infatuation, as each one contains at least one piece by the famous bassist.
The feeling I had for this music could only drive me deeper into a project that would be solely devoted to this prolific composer. The idea of devoting ourselves to Mingus exclusively came to life in 1995 and a year later we recorded a first album, “Hommage à Mingus,” for the label Justin Time.
Despite the fact that “Hommage à Mingus” was moved to the back burner (between 1997 and 2003) in favor of other important musical endeavors, we kept playing our 3-4 concerts a year, which allowed us to keep the project alive by adding new Mingus tunes each time we performed.
“Dense, complex, unpredictable compositions full of sudden changes in rhythm and tempo, and even though they occasionally feature pretty harmonies similar to the ones his mentor Ellington could have thought of, these harmonies are often subjected to savage destructuring or surprise accelerations, and can even resolve into dissonances that were absolutely avant-garde at the time. (…) Through his words, actions and writings, Charles Mingus has left the image of a boisterous, short-tempered, even violent character, but his recorded works highlight different qualities, such as the intensity, spontaneity, and power of his music, along with an unconventional conception of jazz as it was performed during the ’50s and ’60s.”
All in all, Charles Mingus has released over 60 records credited to his name and has left to posterity over 300 original compositions.
This album offers seven Mingus tunes for your pleasure, including a few standards like Pithecanthropus Erectus and Moanin’, but also a few more obscure numbers, such as All the things you could be by now if Sigmond Freud’s wife was your mother and Conversation, plus a revisited version of Fable of Faubus, here rechristened Fable of George Dubya (with appropriate lyrics). And to round up the album, Jean Derome’s beautiful composition MDMD.
I wish you a nice listen.
REVIEW IN THE MUSIC SCENE:
As Andrew Homy mentions in his liner blurb, it is because the members of this Montreal band make this music their own that they are able to play Mingus’ works convincingly. With a slightly different line-up than a usual Mingus ouffit, the present quintet, under the savvy leadership of one of Montreal’s prime bassists, retains much of the boisterous energy and lyricism that typifies the creations of the Master. Furthermore, this excellently captured live performance bears much of the forcefulness and immediacy, which characterize the Mingus style. Qn the whole, the up-tempo tunes are more successful, wherein the soloists shine over a driving rhythm section. Ivanhoe Jolicoeur, whose appropriately hard bop trumpet playing is full of spark and ideas, turns in some sizzling work; Jean Derome (saxes and flute) and Mathieu Bélanger (clarinets) are no slouches either, each of them deftly navigating through all seven idiosyncratic vehicles heard here. That said, they come up short on Peggy’s Blue Skylight, where their reading of the tune seems a little too pedantic and the energy level flags along the way. In contrast, they attack Pithecanthropos Erectus with soulful abandon, and likewise for that mouthful of a tune entitled All the Things You Could be by Now if Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother. Elsewhere, the mid-tempo Fables of Faubus, partly an update on politico-idiocy which zeroes in on George Dubya and his war on Iraq, is only slightly better, but MDMD, a tune penned by Derome in the style of a Mingus dirge and showcasing Guilbeault’s playing to great effect, is both convincing and relevant. Once again, this band is really more engaging in the faster tunes, like the closer Moanin’, best known for its funky signature baritone sax riff.