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Mingus In Antibes
Mingus at Antibes
Charles Mingus


1. Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting
(By Charles Mingus; Jazz Workshop, BMI.)

2. Prayer For Passive Resistance
(By Charles Mingus; Jazz Workshop, BMI.)

3. What Love?
(By Charles Mingus; Jazz Workshop, BMI.)

4. I’ll Remember April
(By Gene De Paul, Pat Johnston & Don Raye; MCA Music, a division of MCA, Inc., / Pic. Corp., ASCAP.)

5. Folk Forms I
(By Charles Mingus; Jazz Workshop, BMI.)

6. Better Git Hit In Your Soul
(By Charles Mingus; Jazz Workshop, BMI.)


Charles Mingus – Bass
Ted Curson – Trumpet
Eric Dolphy – Alto Sax (& Bass Clarinet on “What Love?”)
Booker Ervin – Tenor Sax
Dannie Richmond – Drums

On “I’ll Remember April,” Bud Powell joins the above on Piano

On “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” and  “Bitter Git Hit In Your Soul,” Charles Mingus is also heard on Piano.

Recorded live by Barclay Studios for Atlantic Records at the Antibes Jazz Festival, Juan-les-Pins, France, July 13, 1960.

Executive Producer: Nesuhi Ertegun

Booklet Photos: Jean-Pierre Leloir
Art Direction: Geoff Gans
Design: N. KellerHouse


This is one of the great Mingus albums. It was recorded live at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1960 with a group many listeners feel was Mingus’ best, during one of the bassist/composer’s most productive and boundary-stretching periods. At a time when Ornette Coleman’s free jazz was just beginning to be heard and the avant-garde movement which would follow his example was still gestating, Mingus and his musicians, particularly the incandescent Eric Dolphy, were proposing a brand of freedom built on black folk forms and the skeletal remains of popular song structures. This album captures their freedom-with-order, which was to become a principal influence on Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the other structuralists of the Midwestern avante-garde almost ten years later, at a peak of interactive intensity. There is nothing quite like it in the rest of the Mingus discography. This is the first complete and authorized release of the Antibes concert anywhere.

There is nothing musty or archival about the music. It is a thoroughly contemporary listening experience, startingly so at times, partly because the fullest extent of its impact has been felt relatively recently and partly because of its intrinsic liveliness. But perhaps an account of Mingus’ development during the five years prior to this pivotal recording will  help place it in historical perspective. The originality of his musical thought was becoming evident as early as the mid-fifties, when the Savoy album he shared with a now-obscure pianist named Wally Cirillo stirred up some controversy as an early example of so-called “atonal” jazz. Mingus disagreed with such terminology, and in the album’s liner notes, he explained why. “My intention was to keep the composition (or compositions really) as tonal as possible,” he wrote. “The several lines make it complicated enough for this initial presentation. Since I don’t believe that such music can be classified as ‘atonal’ or ‘weird music’ (as atonal is often classified), I would identify it as ‘a little beyond the elementary.’ If and when these present constructions are accepted, I will venture to delve a little more into the so-called dissonance of free form improvisation – which one may then label atonal. However, I wish to think of it as the way I feel, or rather, the way we feel – not weird, different or atonal – just music I hear and would like an audience to hear.”

Mingus’ promise to investigate free form improvisation is striking in retrospect, although he has said that he was playing such music in Los Angeles as early as 1946. His insistence that the music proceeded from his feeling and those of his musicians is perhaps even more noteworthy. During the next few years, the cool, contrapuntal music on the Savoy “Jazz Composers Workshop” album, with its astonishing interval jumps and multi-thematic lyricism, was expanded into a no less sophisticated but more overtly emotional approach on albums such as “Pithecanthropus Erectus” and “The Clown” on Atlantic. “Tijuana Moods” on RCA, “East Coasting” on Bethlehem, and Mingus Ah Um” and “Mingus Dynasty” on Columbia. On these recordings Mingus emphasized a frankly Ellingtonian approach to reed and brass voicings and a fascination with his earliest remembrances of sanctified church music and its secular alter ego, the blues. Although his transmutation of black folk music into modern jazz must have been inspired, at least in part, by similar alchemies in Ellington works such as Black, Brown and Beige. Mingus brought a profoundly original understanding of folk process to his Jazz Workshop performance of this period. He preferred working orally to writing melody lines or even chord progressions on paper, and together with his drummer, Dannie Richmond, he developed an

unprecedented rhythmic mobility. To judge from the sound of the music, he was seeking to duplicate within his groups the freely responsive relationship between black preacher and congregation or blues singer and audience, a relationship which allows for abrupt changes of tempo and meter, stop-time, dramatic pauses, and other devices, according to the shared feelings of the participants and the sensitivity of the preacher/singer/group leader as a channeler of collective energies.

On the 29th of January, 1960, Mingus recorded his epochal "Blues and Roots" for Atlantic. The original idea for the LP was suggested by producer Nesuhi Ertegun, who had in mind an entire album in the style of the scorching Haitian Fight Song from "The Clown," but the result was pure Mingus. In his notes, the composer described opening composition, Wednesday Prayer Meeting, as "church music. I heard this as a child when I went to meetings with my mother. The congregation gives their testimonial before the Lord, they confess their sins and sing and shout and do a little Holy Rolling. Some preachers cast out demons, they call their dialogue talking in tongues or talking unknown tongue (language that the Devil can’t understand).” The performance featured Booker Ervin in a moaning tenor spot much like the one he plays on the Antibes version of Prayer Meeting, and Mingus was soon to induct an even more ecstatic tongue-talker, Eric Dolphy, into his Workshop.

Not long after he recorded “Blues and Roots,” the bassist went into residence at a small Greenwich village night club, the Showplace (since renamed the Scene). The personnel of his group fluctuated somewhat – he was calling it the Jazz Workshop in order to let it be know that his purposes were frankly experimental – but its nucleus consisted of the musicians heard on this album.

Dannie Richmond had been a member of the Workshop since the mid-fifties, when he switched from tenor saxophone to drums at Mingus' urging. Ervin, who hailed from Texas and had a sound to prove it, had been a Mingus regular since early in 1959. Dolphy, who was from Los Angeles and had played his first professional job there in a band which also included Mingus, and Ted Curson, a Philadelphian who was twenty-five at the time, joined early in the spring of 1960. All these men were featured on "Pre-Bird," the Mercury big band album recorded in May and subsequently reissued on Limelight as "Mingus Revisited." From that album came the brooding Prayer For Passive Resistance, which in its original version was a tenor feature for Yusef Lateef.

The Mingus quintet played together through the summer. The repertoire and approach they developed during those months has been heard previously only in the quartet versions which the band, minus Ervin, recorded for Nat Hentoff's shortlived Candid label in October. "Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus," most recently reissued from the Candid original on Barnaby, included studio versions of What Love? and Folk Forms I, versions which stack up as some of the most thrilling and exploratory music ever recorded by a Mingus unit but which seem in retrospect to lack the weight and wisdom Ervin's tenor brings to these proceedings. The remaining tunes on the Antibes program were I'll Remember April, a jam built around the talents of guest pianist Bud Powell, and Better Git Hit In Your Soul, perhaps the most celebrated of all of Mingus' compositions since he introduced it in 1959 on "Mingus Ah Um."

To begin at the beginning of this set of performances. Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting showcases the Mingus band's most distinctive stylistic hallmarks. The backdrop to Curson's opening trumpet solo keeps changing, from stop-time to walking tempo to no time to 5 insistently bluesy saxophone riffing.

When the tenor saxophonist takes over Mingus yells, "Talk about it, Ervin," and later in the solo he vocally imitates one of Ervin's phrases and screams out a response. Dolphy then enters, burbling volubly like an entranced, tongue-talking, devotee

Over the band’s sanctified-style handclapping. There is a collective melee, the parishioners catching the spirit from their shouting soloist, and as the furor begins to subside Dolphy comes roaring out of it with some of his most energetic and advanced work on record. All this in 1960! Richmond has a furious drum break, with Mingus inserting some tone clusters on piano, and Curson testifies, wah-wah style, over the final chorus.

Booker Ervin has Prayer For Passive Resistance all to himself, and his keening tone and wailing inflections suit the mood of the piece to perfection. Mingus, who seems particularly pleased with the saxophonist’s Texas preaching throughout the set, tells him to “talk about it, talk about it, talk about it” and drive him into one of his most extended and intense recorded improvisations. Again, the rhythm section is all planes and angles, dips and curves. It challenges the soloist by affording him little opportunity to steady himself on level ground.

Ervin lays out on What Love? a Mingus reworking of What Is This Thing Called Love? Curson’s solo follows the overall curve of the version on

the Candid LP and even includes some of the same phrases, recalling Mingus' comment to Nat Hentoff that in the freer pieces this band performed, the musicians "had to listen to what I do on the bass. If I changed it, they'd have to go a different way ... About the only other guidance I give them is that if I hear them doing something particularly good one night, I remind them of it the next time we play the number and suggest they keep it in. But on the whole, it never comes out the same." The improvisations here seem to be based on the structure of What Is This Thing but do not rigidly follow the tune's chord progression and bar form. The conversation between Mingus' bass and Dolphy's bass clarinet, a routine which developed at the Showplace, is particularly free. Here it is more musical, as opposed to speech-like, than the Candid version, but it still anticipated with prescient clarity the rambling, vocally inflected instrumental interactions of the later 1960's.

Mingus has often commented on his admiration for Bud Powell, with whom he recorded at the classic Bird-Dizzy-Bud-Mingus-Roach Massey Hall concert. The pianist is in a deliberate mood here, phrasing in a blocked-out, infinitesimally behind-the-beat manner that brings the Powell-Monk relationship to mind. His style is leaner and less like a steamroller than in his earlier years, and there are a few occasions when his articulation is not all it could be, but these are the kind of quibbles only a pedant would take seriously. The man was playing music of a very high order. Curson follows him, sounding comfortable in these fast, boppish surroundings, and then Dolphy contributes a gorgeously lyrical solo. At first he concentrates on relatively conventional beauty and then, coming out of the tune’s channel, he reaches for more bracing intervals. What an inspired performance! Next, Dolphy and Ervin trade fours, twos, and ones, ant the tenor saxophonist proves that he could build chord extensions as extravagant as Dolphy’s. the contrast between the two men’s styles – Ervin favoring long tones and punching rhythmic phrasing, Dolphy’s work more convoluted and volatile – seems to melt down in the heat and they find a common ground before the concluding collective improvisation.

Folk Forms I in this version sounds like a journey back in time to the early days of the legendary Bolden band and the spawning of the earliest jazz out of marches, blues, and sanctified church music. For the most part it consists of all-out collective improvising, and instead of solos there are breaks. Notice how kinetic and pithy Mingus bass interludes are, and how in his longer spot he plays the blues without recourse to the blues form. Finally, Better Git Hit In Your Soul is more church music, first pew front and center. Ervin’s solo sounds very heavily influenced by the kind of Texas folk preaching the Lomaxes recorded for the Library of Congress during the 1930’s, and Dolphy is incredibly expressive, bringing out a remarkable range of tonguing techniques and modes of attack. Curson captures King Oliver’s spirit with his dirty, broken tone and vocalized wah-wah phrasing on the out-choruses, and Mingus bangs on the piano again and shouts “My Jesus!” before the concluding Amen.

- Robert Palmer

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