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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The 1962 Town Hall Concert




  1. Freedom Part 1
  2. Freedom Part 2 (originally issued as Clark In The Dark)
  3. Osmotin’
  4. Epitaph Part 1
  5. Peggy’s Blue Skylight
  6. Epitaph Part 2
  7. My Search
  8. Portrait
  9. Duke’s Choice (originally issued as Don’t Come Back)
  10. Please Don’t Come Back From The Moon
  11. In A Mellow Tone (originally issued as Finale)
  12. Epitaph Part 1 (encore)
  13. Peggy’s Blue Skylight (Studio Version) bonus track*


Charles Mingus (bass & bandleader)

Clark Terry (trumpet)

Ernie Royal (trumpet)

Snooky Young (trumpet)

Richard Williams (trumpet)

Rolf Ericson (trumpet)

Ed Armour (trumpet)

Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet)

Britt Woodman (trombone)

Quentin Jackson (trombone)

Willie Dennis (trombone)

Eddie Bert (trombone)

Jimmy Cleveland (trombone)

Paul Faulise (trombone)

Don Butterfield (tuba)

Danny Blank (contrabass clarinet)

Romeo Penque (oboe)

Eric Dolphy (alto sax)

Charlie Mariano (alto sax)

Charles McPherson (alto sax)

Buddy Collette (alto sax)

Zoot Sims (tenor sax)

George Berg (tenor sax)

Pepper Adams (baritone sax)

Jerome Richardson (baritone sax)

Warren Smith (vibraphone & percussion)

Toshiko Akiyoshi (piano)

Jaki Byard (piano)

Les Spann (guitar)

Milt Hinton (bass)

Dannie Richmond (drums)

Grady Tate (percussion)

rec Town Hall, New York, USA on October 12, 1962

*bonus track

Jimmy Knepper (Trombone)

Booker Ervin (tenor sax)

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (tenor sax, manzello, stritch)

Charles Mingus (bass & leader)

Doug Watkins (bass)

Dannie Richmond (drums)

rec. New York, USA on November 6, 1961

All compositions by Charles Mingus except In A Mellow Tone (Duke Ellington, George Duke & Milt Gabler)

PHOENIX RECORDS 131569 [78:16]


This CD is a recording of a true piece of jazz history and an attempt to right a lot of wrongs. For a long time Charles Mingus, one of the greatest innovators in jazz history, had wanted to play the New York Town Hall and to treat it as an experimental workshop with a large 32 piece orchestra playing some of Mingus’ original compositions work shopping them live warts and all along with other songs from his career. However, it seemed as if everything conspired to make it a concert fraught with difficulties. For a start the date was inexplicably brought forward by 5 weeks by the record company United Artists and it can only be imagined how difficult Mingus must have found complying with such an idiotic demand when so many musicians were involved. Several of the numbers are cut short by Mingus before their end but then Mingus had never even intended it as a public concert or to have it recorded and both of those things were the record company’s idea. His idea was simply for it to have been a public recording date and that the public would not have been asked for any admission charge. During the performance he even advised the audience to ask for their money back though he couldn’t be heard since the microphone wasn’t switched on! The change of date naturally resulted in little rehearsal time and coupled with poor sound and interruptions the record which finally included just 36 minutes of music, and disgracefully didn’t even bother listing the personnel, was understandably regarded as a fiasco and a disaster. In 1994 Blue Note did their best to correct some of the worst facets of the original and cleaned up the recording.

The present CD goes one better by including a studio recording of Peggy’s Blue Skylight from 1961 as a bonus track because Jimmy Knepper the trombonist and member of Mingus’ band at the time of the concert was not playing on the recording. This was because a further twist of fate had intervened in the shape of an argument between Knepper and Mingus just before the concert was due to start during which Mingus punched Knepper on the jaw almost destroying Knepper’s embouchure and leading to Knepper suing Mingus for assault. The bonus track has other jazz greats playing including Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

At the time the original recording was issued with all its faults the playing was considered as uneven in many cases. I don’t know how the restoration of the entire concert and cleaning up of the recording can have altered that but I don’t get any sense of unevenness listening to it now and if there is any I’m lucky not to pick it up; it’s just great jazz to me.

The disc starts with Mingus’ Freedom which is one of his musically political statements for which he was famous; Mingus was someone who was prepared to take a stand over the way black people, indeed all the oppressed in the world, were treated, and ‘the devil take the consequences’ as far as he was concerned. This is another reason I rate him so highly and it led to some seminal works in jazz that included Fables Of Faubus. All the music is brilliant and there are some standout moments when some of the wonderful musicians give it their all and a good example is a dialogue between Mingus and Eric Dolphy as well as some of Clark Terry’s solos. The CD includes three extracts from Epitaph which Mingus famously quipped he had written for his tombstone, never expecting to play it. Gunther Schuller made an attempt to play the entire work or rather as much as existed at the time of Mingus’ death and in 1989 he premiered it in a concert in New York. That was a fitting tribute to Mingus’ musical genius and this disc is another and is highly recommended.

Steve Arloff

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