The Blue Moods | Myth & Wisdom Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Posi-Tone records is introducing a series of projects called “The Blue Moods.” This will be a serious of albums that focuses on the composing of influential jazz artists that need more attention to rise above today’s jazz obscurity. Though these composers are masters of the jazz idiom and innovators known to the learned jazz player, they languish in relative obscurity in the wider jazz community. These introductory programs are focused on a single artist to represent some of their vital works to a new group of listeners. This premier volume spotlights the compositions of Charles Mingus and is titled, Myth & Wisdom. The ensemble is Diego Rivera, tenor saxophone; Art Hirahara, piano; Boris Kozlov, bass; Joe Strasser, drums and David Kikoski, piano (tracks 5, 8, 9).
The driving six-four swing of “Better Get It In Your Soul” opens the album with an arrangement that captures Mingus’ strong use of counter lines and layering in a quartet setting. Rivera’s tone and energy are building as Hirahara’s combination of chords and countermelodies play an equal role. The chemistry between Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond is remembered by bassist Kazlov and Strasser’s drumming. Hirahara’s solo focuses on the blues as Mingus’ music always had, which builds to Rivera’s solo statement. Keeping the melody as a central theme; Rivera snakes through the changes. A short solo by Strasser takes us to the head and out.
“Pithecanthropus Erectus” is a modern jazz-funk interpretation of this Mingus treasure. To put it in historical perspective, Mingus wrote this melody during the height of the be-bop era, so keeping that contrast in mind will help listeners understand the revolutionary sounds coming from Mingus’ musical mind. Both Rivera and Kikoski perform admirable solos with modern and Latin jazz mixed to good effect. The call and response between the two soloists for a closing statement is a high point on the project.
Myth & Wisdom is a beautiful presentation of some of Charles Mingus’ more well-known melodies. Keeping his music alive and well is vitally important and kudos to Posi-Tone for recognizing this and doing something about it. The ensemble is highly musical, as we have come to expect from all Posi-Tone records, and will delight many jazz fans.