If you were around, in the U.S., and into jazz forty years ago, you may have seen a weekly half-hour television show called The Jazz Set, which I hosted and co-produced. We had many great musicians as guests, in a jazz club setting that some people took to be the real thing. After the show went national on the PBS network, we began receiving letters from people who were planning a trip to New York and wanted the club's address. Actually, our set was in Trenton, New Jersey, but we did have a real audience seated at tables and sipping cleverly disguised sodas.
Since I commuted from New York for the tapings, I frequently took the train with some of the performers, and I can still see Mingus on the platform at Penn Station, his arm around his bass and a snack in the other hand. When we boarded the train, he headed straight for the dining car, with me tagging behind.
We ordered a three-course lunch and had a delightful trip during which music never came up in our conversation. When I told him that I had named my dog Mingus, he stopped eating, looked up from his plate and asked, "What kind of dog do you have?"
He looked relieved when I replied that Mingus was a doberman, and told me that someone in Greenwich Village had named a beauty shop after him—this had obviously not pleased him.
We were still a good way from Princeton when Mingus finished his dessert, called the stewart over and—aiming a circular gesture at the table—said, "let's do this again." I limited my request to a second cup of coffee and watch with amazement as Mingus did his encore.
When we arrived at the studio, there was a huge chocolate cake, baked by the wife of one of our cameramen in honor of Mingus. We all had some, but Mingus enjoyed about half of it.
He was in a great mood that day, and I think it is reflected in his performance, which includes Peggy's Blue Skylight and Orange is the Color Of Her Dress.
|Mingus, Charles McPherson, Lonnie Hillyer, Bobby Jones|
There is also my interview, which you may have seen in the film, "Triumph of the Underdog." Unfortunately, I do not have this show on video, but it's all about the music—besides, I look silly in my dawn of disco locks and outfit.
COMING UP: The next scheduled post will comprise recordings I made at a 1964 Jackie Robinson lawn party. You will hear performances by the Duke Ellington Alumni Orchestra (led by Mercer) and the Dave Brubeck Quartet.