During one week in February of 1973, you could attend a live performance by the Charles Mingus Quintet at the intimate Strata Detroit Concert gallery for a mere six bucks.
That’s right. You could hear, or bear witness to the great American composer, besides Duke Ellington for next to cheap. The performances were transmitted live by producer and broadcaster Robert “Bud” Spangler for WDET-FM radio, not a network nor NPR affiliate, for the community to experience in real-time.
These rare recordings from reels discovered by DJ Amir Abdullah capture a lesser-known Mingus line-up that includes Detroit natives drummer Roy Brooks and trumpeter Joe Gardner along with virtuoso pianist Don Pullen, and the creative saxophonist John Stubblefield. BBE released the four-hour box set called “Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden” which has the earliest known recording of “Noddin’ Ya Head Blues”, and a rare inclusion of “Dizzy Profile” – a beautiful waltz never officially recorded by Mingus for a studio release.
Curator of the project, DJ Amir Abdullah, sums up the relevance of this release in a recent interview I had with him:
“Charles Mingus was a great American composer and arranger. He was a genius on par with Miles Davis, Dizzy, Charlie Parker, and Monk. And yes, he was a Black American standing up for his people in his own way. Take, for example, Pithecanthropus Erectus, a song composed by Mingus that called out the issue of Slavery and its impact on humanity, specifically, Black Americans. He was a complicated person, but he was his own man in a time where Black men were not allowed to be men. Some might say nothing has changed. Mingus is still relevant today because of his singular will to push music forward, always create, and the importance he placed on band improvisation. Mingus had his issues and was known to get into fights with some of his band members, but with the exception of Duke Ellington, Mingus was probably one of the greatest American composers ever.”
“Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden” released November 2, 2018 on BBE