Artist: Charles Mingus
Genre: Hard Bop
Look at the discography of any classic jazzman and you’ll find an impossibly long list of obscure and not-so-obscure LPs. Back in the good ole days, it was quite easy for a renowned (or not-so-renowned) musician to walk into a recording studio, rip through a session in a couple hours and put a new album on the street in a matter of months. For example, peep the Sonny Rollins page: dude released seven LPs in 1957 alone. Of course, some of those releases are major (Saxophone Colossus and Way Out West) and some are minor (Rollins Plays for Bird and Tour de Force), but the sheer quantity — and quality — are unmatched in today’s industry.
Charles Mingus was one of the few jazzmen who aimed for a masterpiece on every album he made. However, after releasing The Clown in early ’57, he issued three more LPs that don’t quite harness the same ambition. East Coasting, his second release of the year, is a relatively straightforward hard bop set.
The extended tracks — notably, the seven-minute “Celia” and the 10-minute “West Coast Ghost” — contain many of the prototypical Mingus hallmarks that I love so much: unpredictable solos, mysterious chord changes and a penchant for raucous blues. But the majority of East Coasting isn’t as quirky or idiosyncratic as his “classic” music; tame in comparison.
It’s rare to simply regard a Mingus record as “the one with Bill Evans on piano.”