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2/5/14

Charles Mingus Sextet: Trenton - May 9, 1972


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.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for this music, Chris. It lifted my spirits and almost melted some snow. That's a nice "Naima" as you and Mingus speak.

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    1. Thank you, Michael. It's good to see that you still visit.

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    2. As always, Chris, you have the best blog on the internet.

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  2. Thanks for this Chris, very interesting!!

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  3. just discovered this wonderful site, and i have to agree with allen's comment.

    love that 'dawn of disco' shot. :)

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. I once sang "Dat Dere" with Charlie Mingus at the "new" Five Spot. Let me explain. He was a guest of my host and was seated next to me. At one point, Mingus says to no one in particular (maybe Jackie McLean had played the song in his set):

    "Someone should write lyrics to Bobby Timmons' "Dat Dere.'"

    "Oscar Brown, Jr. already has," I respond.

    And with very little in the way of prompting from Mingus I then proceed to sing the lyrics, with him joining me midway, humming along. "Hey daddy, what dat dere and what dat over dere and daddy, etc."

    And THAT, boys and girls, is how I ended up sitting in with Mingus at the Five Spot. Well. . .sorta.

    I also once sang backup on a recording by a fairly well-known jazz singer several decades later. But that's another story for a long night around the camp fire.

    And that is the full extent of my career as a singer. Not that anyone asked.

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    1. Nice story. Good to see you here, Bill. Many moons ago, when long hair was a radical reaction to crewcuts, Oscar and I were taping a TV interview in my apartment (20 feet from where I post this). Somehow, long hair and wigs came up and Oscar reached over to tug at mine. He declared it self-grown, and the interview continued. :)

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    2. One day Brown came into my office at the L.A. California African-American Museum where I was curating an exhibit, "Hollywood Days and Harlem Nights." I had never met him before, wasn't expecting him at all; thus, when I looked up and saw him standing there, I was a tad over-enthusiastic: "Omigawd, Oscar Brown, Jr.. . .!", etc. He said that he was always surprised when anyone knew who he was. And I was totally surprised that he was totally surprised: "But YOU'RE Oscar Brown, Jr.," I exclaimed! He laughed. Like my Mingus occasion, another more-or-less unexpected brush with greatness. I've had a few. A lot of 'em in elevators.

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  6. Hi,,I just discovered your blog. I was searching for missing Mingus. And this one 1972 Trenton, never heard. There is some possibility to download it?
    I have 184 recordings sessions of him (in MP3 format),
    He is my favorite musician for aprox. 55 years, so I want all, almost all

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    1. For reasons that I probably don't have to explain, I don't have a download option. This was a television show, aired on 2 or 300 stations, so there must be some of it floating around. If I had an e-mail contact for you...

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  7. Mingus looks so incredibly young in the picture--as do you, Chris.
    Same problem posting here as on WBAI blog; script words are impossible to decipher.


    TPM

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  8. My god,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,just now realize, who are you...
    I have in my Lester Young collection 2 interviews, yours and Francois Postif,s
    Prez,,,is another of my "heroes"

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    1. Prez has been someone whose playing I greatly admire since I first heard him play. I was a teenager in Copenhagen back then.

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    2. Just looking again at Trumph of the underdog, at minute 17 ,, your interview, about jazz, or "black music",,or..
      Prez. I was also teenager, 15 year old, when he (and Lady Day) became a Big Favorite..
      Time did not change this..
      I was listening in this period many 78 tours,,
      There was a romanian composer Mihai Andricu, one of the first people in Europe to write about jazz. Living at Paris in 1932,,,1934, good friend with Charles Delaunay , Hugues Panassie (with him they broken all relation after the be bops querelle started), he published in Jazz Hot, first article was about Duke,,
      Well, I started listening his collection,,, from Jelly Roll Morton toward Ornette Coleman ..


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  9. Thanks, it is OK. A friend of mine did download. I have an obsession with Mingus...
    Interesting, I did not find on any discography listing for this Trenton....,
    There is information about many private recordings, or bootleg, or radio, TV shows, but nothing about Trenton.

    Thanks, again, best wishes.....Bányai Péter. from Romania...

    Post Scriptum. Mingus had a wonderful concert in Bucharest, in a small room (inside american embassy,) I could see him, to hear him (good accustics), it was a few weeks, after Don Pullen quitted him, 1975 end of year,,,wonderful..

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    1. I'm glad your friend was able to download it. I did many shows in that TV series, it was aired on the PBS (Public TV) network, as well as by local stations. Trenton, New Jersey is where we taped it. I know that a complete, professional copy exists at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Its quality should be much better.

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  10. Wonderful to hear the great Bobby Jones, Lonnie Hillyer and Charles McPherson and the unusual rhythm section. Thanks!
    Malcolm MacDonald.

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    1. Thank you, I'm glad you came by and found something you like. I am still trying to find a video of that entire show. I think it's one of 13 "Jazz Set" shows that is tucked away at either the Smithsonian or the L of C.

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  11. Bobby Jones is my father (I'm one of the two sons about which his "Ballad for Two Sons" was written). I'd love to have a copy of this episode. Guess I'll have to make a trip to the Smithsonian. Thanks for the informative post.

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