This 1960 session falls historically between the astounding late-1959 work Charles Mingus did for Columbia Records and his slimmed-down pianoless quartet that made the classic Mingus at Antibes. Pre Bird and the Columbia material share some common elements, most obviously the large ensemble. Mingus devoted these sessions to his pre-1940s material and other works from the prebop era, and two of the best-played works are from Ellington's pen.
Both "Take the 'A' Train" and "Do Nothin' Till You hear from Me" are taken at a distinctly Mingus pace, with Ellington's polyphony heightened and the tension increased considerably by the more-pouncing band here. "Prayer for Passive Resistance" shows the same pounce, as does "Mingus Fingus No. 2," and both sound looser and more free-associative in the soloing than the Columbia work. Two additional highlights are "Weird Nightmare" and the third-stream-colored "Half-Mast Inhibition" (conducted by Gunther Schuller), which keens and squirrels about just off-center from either tonality or atonality. As for the band, it's got all the usual suspects and more: Eric Dolphy and Booker Ervin are the reed section's towering talents, and as always, Dannie Richmond keeps the drummed time. For Mingus fans, this is a treasure.
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