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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.