Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chazz Workshop

The Baron steps up to the mic. Wonder if this was also a broadcast? A photo
from several decades earlier than the period represented by this download,
probably taken on 52nd Street. Bob Parent photo

Well, gang, this here's our 100th posting on Gems of Jazz. Where does the time go? Since it's a special occasion, I thought I should post a real rarity. Not that many of the other items on Gems aren't in that category, but this one is – as far as I know – only available here. I've been saving it for a banner moment, and now that moment has arrived. 

You all know Charles Mingus. You probably know that his last great quintet was the one that featured Jack Walrath, George Adams and Don Pullen along with Dannie Richmond and the boss. You may also know that there are very few live recordings of this stellar group. 

Well, here's one more.

The Jazz Workshop (and Paul's Mall) on Boylston
Street in 
the mid-1970s.
To wit, the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop at the Jazz Workshop, 733 Boylston Street in good ol' Boston. The band appeared there on May 7 and 8, 1975, just before heading off to the Montreux Jazz Festival on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Mingus was in Boston for two nights, playing two sets each night and working out some of the new material he was going to perform in Switzerland. He was in declining health, suffering from the first symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease. But his playing – and especially that of his new quintet – was superb.

At the time, I was working at Discount Records in Allston (see a previous post on Walt Dickerson) and was lucky enough to get free tickets to the second of those nights at the Workshop, courtesy of our WEA rep (Mingus was on Atlantic at the time). The first night's show, I learned, was going to be broadcast live over WBUR, Boston University Radio. It was a Boris Rose moment: I decided I had to tape the broadcast.

The record store where I worked had a sideline selling cheapo stereo equipment, stuff that was made somewhere in Asia but was stamped with the CBS brand (CBS owned Discount Records). I didn't own a tape recorder, so I talked my boss into letting me borrow a cassette tape deck that was the store's demo model. I took it home and figured out how to wire it up to an old GE FM tube radio that I'd bought at a yard sale during my college days. I tuned in WBUR, ran tape, and to my great surprise and delight, was able to get a decent test recording. I eagerly waited for the 9 p.m. Jazz Workshop broadcast.

When the program began, I started the tape deck and hoped for the best. The show got underway a little late (jazz time) and the audio was pretty funky at first, but then suddenly there was Mingus and the band and some pretty amazing music. The demo deck performed flawlessly, considering that it was a bargain-basement piece of equipment. I used a 90-minute CBS cassette and had to hurriedly flip it once Side 1 ran out. But the recording came out OK, as you will hear, given the limitations of WBUR's engineering and my device. There's a persistent tape hiss, but I hope you can overlook that.

Here's Mingus during an earlier
visit to the Jazz Workshop in 
courtesy of Warren S.
The next night I went with a friend to the Jazz Workshop and caught Mingus' first set. Charles smoked a cigar through the whole performance and at one point I remember its ash leaving a dusty trail down his shirt front. George Adams sang an outrageous version of Gatemouth Brown's "Devil Blues," and Don Pullen deconstructed the piano repeatedly. It was the only time I saw Mingus live, and it was transcendent.

These shows are not listed in the Jazz Discography Project's page on Mingus, so apparently no recording has survived. Until now. So grab this one and enjoy the sound of the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop and my Boris Rose moment.

As an added bonus, here's George Adams performing "Devil Blues" at the aforementioned Montreux Jazz Festival. The trumpet player isn't Jack Walrath – I'm not sure who he is, but the rest of the band is there. (Note to self: After doing a little checking, the trumpeter is Claudio Roditi.)

Charles Mingus Quintet
WBUR Broadcast

Mingus, b; Jack Walrath, tp; George Adams, ts; Don Pullen, p; Dannie Richmond, d.
Jazz Workshop, Boston, MA; May 7, 1975

1. Introduction/Nobody Knows
2. Fables of Faubus
3. Peggy's Blue Skylight
4. Noddin' Your Head Blues
5. Ornithology/Cherokee

Find it here:


  1. First, Happy Thanksgiving! Second, I am beyond jealous that you saw Mingus live. Third, what an excellent share. Congratulations on the 100th post and thank you for sharing this rare, most excellent gem.

    1. Thanks, JC. Happy Bird Day to yourself. I only wish had seen Mr. Mingus a few more times before he passed. One of my favorite jazz artists of all time, without question. Glad you enjoyed the recording, funky as the sound is. More to come!

  2. David-many thanks for both recent Mingus postings! Mr Mingus is on my short list of jazz favorites as well.

    1. Yeah, vilstef, I was elated when I saw that the eBay seller had that 10-inch Mingus on Debut, the first record the Baron ever issued on his own. Years ago I found one of his early 78s on Excelsior, also a prized item in the collection. Enjoy!

  3. Okay: Wow.

    Thank you.

    Mingus is my favorite, ever. (My three favorites: Ellington, Mingus, Threadgill.)

    Again, thank you.

  4. Wonderful. The quality of the recording quickly becomes immaterial, and by the end of the set, you're just enjoying the music. Well worth having.