Acoustic Sounds

Charles Mingus

Blues & Roots



Mingus Blues & Roots

Label: Analogue Productions/Atlantic

Produced By: Nesuhi Ertegun

Engineered By: Tom Dowd

Mixed By: Tom Dowd

Lacquers Cut By: Kevin Gray at Cohearent Mastering

By: Michael Fremer

December 12th, 2023





Mingus's "Blues & Roots" Bristles With Restless Energy

the arrangements supercharge a basic form

Producer Nesuhi Ertegun suggested to Charles Mingus that he record a blues album. Obviously not a "my woman done up and left me" kind of "woe is me" blues album, but rather one that plied the dark, turbulent but often joyful waters in which Mingus navigated.

In one interview with Ertegun Mingus said, “What I’m trying to play is very difficult, because I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason why it’s difficult — it’s not difficult to play the mechanics of it — it’s because I’m changing all the time.”

This album is a mix of earthy church music, a reflection of Mingus' world view, his musical inspirations and as always his rage and the organized street level musical chaos and mischief in which his creativity thrived.

On the opener, "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting", Mingus comes out swinging heavily. In the annotation he describes the song as "church music"—not the Sunday morning family variation but rather music reflecting the raucous cast out the devil speaking in tongues confessional variety. It sets the tone for what follows, which is an album fit for a "Jazz Workshop" with all of the players contributing to well-organized musical chaos. Lots of call out solos and lots of "group think" ensemble meshing.

Side two (of the original) adds Mingus's humor starting with "Tensions", a playful horns a blaring look at fast-paced modern woes (circa 1959), then his delightful NOLA romp of a Jelly Roll Morton tribute, and finally the wind up— a frantic but joyful musical chase packed with notable solos.

Mingus assembled an all-star team for this record including saxophonists Jackie McLean, John Handy (alto), and Booker Ervin (tenor) plus Pepper Adams on indispensable baritone sax plus trombonists Jimmy Knepper and Wilie Dennis, who both add much of the necessary brass "grunt" to express Mingus's musical and emotional intentions. Was Gil Evans listening to this before creating Out of the Cool? Just sayin'.

My "go to" version of this album has long been an original Atlantic mono pressing.

Blues & Roots mono

This new Kevin Gray mastered stereo reissue using the original tapes, plated and pressed at QRP, gives you a remarkably transparent open window on the original event presented, compared to the original, with greater dynamic authority, timbral vibrancy, dynamic range and image three-dimensionality.

You can be sure the "old school" gimme the original mono document types might complain, but so much more is revealed here, it's difficult to fault what Kevin Gray has pulled from these tapes, though there's still something to be said about the mono presentation's "mix-integrity" compared to the fairly hard-panned L-R imaging on the stereo edition. Just presenting "both sides" of the "debate". A mono mix RSD version might be a nice follow-up some time on.

For now though, there's this highly recommended deluxe, laminated, "Tip-on" edition featuring a pair of black and white Mingus photos in the gatefold. Happy 75th to Atlantic Records!

Music Specifications

Catalog No: APA 001-45

Pressing Plant: QRP


Speed/RPM: 45

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original master tapes

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2023-12-12 10:54:11 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Yes, comparing this one and the 2001 Rhino Stereo remaster with the original results in both sounding clearly better, the new 45 KG again superior to the Rhino.

    The Rhino (a bit too laid back and with less information than the AP, but better than the original) can make some sense anyway for those who find the new one a bit too bright. When I first compared the two, I thought, an EQ’ing inbetween could have been perfect.