Home Read Classic Album Review: Charles Mingus | The Very Best of

Classic Album Review: Charles Mingus | The Very Best of

No single disc could hold all the maverick bassist's highlights — but this comes close.

This album came out a couple of decades ago. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Even the liner notes to this compilation acknowledge that calling this album (or any single CD) The Very Best of Charles Mingus might be pushing it a tad.

Since this 11-track retrospective covers only the maverick jazz bassist’s recordings for Atlantic Records — one of many labels the iconoclastic genius toiled for over the decades — it doesn’t include many of his most well-known songs: There’s no Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, no Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, nothing from Mingus Ah Um. Which is not to suggest this disc is inferior or a poor primer for neophytes. Far from it. Like contemporaries Miles and Monk, pretty much every lick Mingus played was original, inspired and just plain beautiful, making this disc a winner from beginning to end — the unrestrained post-bop of Pithecanthropus Erectus, the exotic jive of Tonight at Noon, the gospel-inspired grooves of the epic Haitian Fight Song and Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting and the gutbucket Cryin’ Blues, all driven and anchored by Mingus’s gruff, no-nonsense approach and thick, ropy bass lines. Maybe these tracks aren’t all his very best, but they sure as hell aren’t far off.