Friday, September 29, 2023

Charles Mingus Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Recordings

Charles Mingus is the most important American jazz composer after Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. As part of the ongoing celebration of Mingus’ centennial, Rhino will release a new boxed set that spotlights the creative resurgence that defined the final phase of the legendary bassist and composer’s career.

The collection includes the last seven studio albums Mingus recorded for Atlantic Records between 1973 and his death in 1979 and a selection of outtakes - some previously unreleased.

The set brings together newly remastered versions of all seven studio albums Mingus recorded for Atlantic in the 1970s. The LP and CD versions include Mingus Moves (1973), Changes One (1974), Changes Two (1974), Three or Four Shades of Blues (1977), Cumbia & Jazz Fusion (1977), Me, Myself an Eye(1979), and Something Like a Bird (1979). The collection also features previously unreleased session outtakes.

CHANGES: THE COMPLETE 1970s ATLANTIC RECORDINGS comes with an illustrated booklet that delves deep into the final years of Mingus’ music with extensive liner notes by Andrew Homzy, a musician, arranger, jazz scholar, and Grammy® Award Nominee.

Mingus Moves opens the collection, recorded in October 1973, leading a new quintet with youthful musicians – trumpeter Ronald Hampton, tenor saxophonist George Adams, and pianist Don Pullen – and old friend Dannie Richmond on drums. One of the songs they recorded was a new Mingus composition, “Opus 3,” which was built on the chords from the composer’s 1956 landmark piece, “Pithecanthropus Erectus.”

The band’s lineup shifted slightly in 1974 when Jack Walrath replaced Hampton on trumpet. Soon, Mingus and the group returned to the studio for a three-day session that produced two albums, Changes One and Changes Two. A tribute to Mingus’ dynamic wife, “Sue’s Changes” from Changes One is a vibrant masterpiece. With five themes that move through several different keys, tempos, instrumental textures, and emotional registers, it’s a highwater mark not only in Mingus’ career but also in jazz history.

Mingus recorded Three or Four Shades of Blues in 1977 with a rotating cast of stellar musicians. The album includes new versions of two Mingus standards, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” and “Better Git Hit In Your Soul.”

Mingus was commissioned to write the score for an Italian film, Todo Modo, in 1976. Performing with a large ensemble, he recorded two extended compositions that rank high among his best work of the 1970s. Ironically, the music wasn’t used in the film; however, it was released on Cumbia & Jazz Fusion in 1977.

Later that year, Mingus was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Undeterred, he continued to compose and direct his last recording sessions from a wheelchair. Me, Myself an Eye, and Something Like a Bird were completed before his death in January 1979 - both included in Changes.

Five previously unreleased recordings debut in the new collection. The CD version includes three outtakes: “Big Alice,” “The Call,” and “Music for ‘Todo Modo.’” The LP version consists of those plus additional unreleased takes for “Big Alice” and “The Call” that are exclusive to the vinyl set.

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