CLASSICS I HATE
I hate to say this, but Mingus At Antibes is only for Mingus fanatics who really, really like Better Get Hit In Your Soul.
In a way, it’s hard to blame Mingus. In 1960, he had just invented the combination of gospel shouting and free jazz, set to a driving 6/8 beat. It’s not too surprising that he would want to explore that style thoroughly in concert, especially considering how popular it was. However, almost 50 years later, that style has been beaten to death by Mingus himself in release after release. Let’s face it: a concert consisting mostly of that style gets plain tedious, no matter how passionate the playing.
And Mingus At Antibes has some of the craziest players in the business: Eric Dolphy blows on alto here like he has a gun pointed at his head; Booker Ervin’s tenor practically speaks in tongues; Dannie Richmond drums like he’s been hitting the crack pipe; even trumpeter Ted Curson catches the fever; and Mingus drives them all like a madman on bass.
If raw aggression were all it took to ensure greatness, Mingus At Antibes would be a masterpiece.
Fortunately, there is a little relief from the all consuming gospel shout emphasis.
What Love? is a little more of what we are used to from Mingus, a variety of different moods and styles, woven into a loose arrangement which gives the players a lot of freedom. It’s quite enjoyable.
Then there’s the standard I’ll Remember April, which I’m sure was chosen to accomodate guest pianist Bud Powell. Powell is not at his best here, fumbling at the notes a little bit, playing behind the beat, but I enjoyed his playing anyway. Mingus has fun with the arrangement. The time is more elastic than you would normally hear in a straight bop rendition, and that’s all to the good as far as I’m concerned. Straight bop can get boring unless you have extraordinary soloists like Bird and Dizzy. When it’s his turn to solo, Eric Dolphy rips April a new one — he’s positively rude the way he turns this sedate standard on it’s ear.
But then, with Folk Forms, we’re back to the same gospel shout territory, albeit in 4/4 instead of 6/8.
The last tune is Better Get Hit In Your Soul. Enuff said.
So, what do we have? On a 70 minute CD, four out of six songs, and 44 our 70 minutes are devoted to gospel shouts. That makes Mingus At Antibes monotonous and overbearing, even shrill.