This 1958 Bethlehem recording—along with the revived label's Mingus offering from last year, East Coasting—showcases steps toward the brilliant, tempestuous bassist/composer/bandleader's

This 1958 Bethlehem recording—along with the revived label's Mingus offering from last year, East Coasting—showcases steps toward the brilliant, tempestuous bassist/composer/bandleader's late-'50s/early-'60s masterpieces, such as Blues and Roots (Atlantic) and Mingus-Ah-Um (Columbia). The music here largely shows the "gentle side" of Mingus as a modern-jazz aural sculptor. He learned his lessons well from his hero, Duke Ellington, whose compositional palette always drew from the strengths of his band members. There are glorious contributions here from trombonist Jimmy Knepper and pianist Horace Parlan, as well as the relentlessly resourceful Danny Richmond on drums. Mingus' 20-minute, four-section suite is the atmospheric scene-stealer here, along with the 11-minute opening piece, "Scenes of the City." The latter includes a few minutes of spoken narrative (penned by Langston Hughes and Lonnie Elder III) by a fictional Harlemite in distressed circumstances who praises jazz music as a soul saver. The music confirms the words. Highly recommended to old and new fans alike.—BH

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