Charles Mingus - Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1964), 8/10

This record, as opposed to the obvious Kind of Blue most have already either heard or have been recommended, is a great recommendation for any aspiring jazz listener. There are so many memorable hooks, electrifying performances, and it encapsulates just about everything that makes this flavor of jazz uniquely beautiful, plus a vast improvement in style and arrangement of some of Mingus’ greatest compositions, the record itself serving as a tribute to Mingus' roots including other great composers. We start off swinging with "II B.S.", a track that is so full of life, you'll have a hard time avoiding some type of body movement. This is followed by one of the most seductive jazz songs ever "I X Love" that sounds like it would be right at home in a noir film transitional scene, overflowing with flirtatious refinement. The Duke cover "Mood Indigo" is done great justice and serves as a wonderful tribute to one of the all time greats. This is masterfully balanced with "Better Get Hit in Yo' Soul", a frantic, energizing, soulful performance. It's worth mentioning we get a particularly electric yet grounded performance from Mingus on the closer, letting the rest of the band soar. There is a beautiful simplicity about a lot of these songs and arrangements, but there still remains a complexity in the performances that make it enjoyable for so many re-listens even beyond and in addition to the originals. Truly a masterclass in early jazz composition, arrangement, and performance. The flow from song to song holds a perfect pace so that it will fly by, forty minutes that will feel like an absolute joy; you can truly sense the excitement, passion, and inspiration from not only Mingus, but every member of the band without exception. Of course for those seeking something exceptionally challenging that is not the aim or the result here, this album is simply an exhilarating new take on classic be bop with a very easily identifiable Mingus style and expression. There is a certain fundamental, inimitable quality to the spirit of the performers, Mingus, Dick Hafer and Jerome Richardson in particular sound possessed on every track, even the slower ballads. Undeniably one of Mingus’ best records, remarkably accessible yet profoundly moving, and absolutely essential listening.