Monday, April 16, 2007

Mingus at the Nonagon Gallery

The copy of the album posted here was originally released on United Artists in 1959. It was re-issued by Blue Note Records at some point in the '90s under the title Mingus In Wonderland.

It's an excellent live recording (it happened on 19 January 1959) with John Handy on alto sax, Booker Ervin on tenor sax, Richard Wyands on piano, Dannie Richmond on drums, and Charles Mingus on bass. This was the first album that Booker Ervin and John Handy had ever recorded on. Handy went on to form his own band shortly after its release. Horace Parlan was originally scheduled to sit in on the piano but an emergency trip out of town paved the way for Richard Wyands to do it instead.

The works Alice's Wonderland and Nostalgia In Times Square were both written for John Cassavetes' film Shadows but for some reason Wonderland was never used in the final print of the film. The session got great reviews.

Balliett: "...Mingus... a wandering, thick textured melody... a delight from beginning to end... a near perfect piece. Handy was particularly striking... he played with flawless control, and although the work of Charlie Parker forms a broad dais for his style, he used, unlike most of his colleagues on the saxophone, a highly selective number of notes, a warm tone, and a couple of devices- a frequently prolonged trill astonishingly like that of old New Orleans clarinettist George Baquet, and ivory-like sorties into the upper register reminiscent of Benny Carter's smooth accents..."

Gushee: "...Mingus' work remains consistently stimulating, despite many inconsistencies, both in his music and his quixotic public personality. He has ambition and an obssessive desire to communicate, plus an awareness of unexplored musical techniques; at the same time, he remains true to jazz, improvised, or if composed, unwritten, and draws freely on his own musical memories..."

Hentoff: "The grinding insecurity of not working steadily; the explosive pleasure in being able to talk through music, talk more fully than any other way; and above all, those times, as on this night at the Nonagan, when he has the knowledge that others are listening."

The Nonagon Gallery was quite an interesting place in its time. Recording live albums for Charles Mingus and showing Yoko Ono's art work for the first time are just two of their claims to fame. One of the people who ran the gallery was a woman by the name of Dorothy Podber, known for her wild antics and frightening Andy Warhol after shooting a bullet through a stack of Marilyn Monroe silkscreens he was getting ready to show. Read about her here.

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