Charles Mingus

Tijuana Moods
(RCA/Legacy)

Charlie Mingus — bass player, composer, bandleader — was one of America's greatest jazz musicians. His ability to bring out the best in his sidemen is legendary, as is the passion and fury he put into every note he played. He cut Tijuana Moods — the soundtrack for a wild, debauched weekend he spent in the border town with his drummer Dannie Richmond — in 1957, but it still sounds fresh and innovative. The music has cinematic scope, but unlike the bland soundtracks of your average mainstream flick, everything here bristles with vitality. "Ysabel's Table Dance" takes us into a strip club, and you can almost smell the tequila in the air and sense the desperation of the dancers and the sad men who urge them on. Its blend of chaos and blue resignation is remarkable. "Los Mariachis" incorporates dissonant traffic sounds, blues, swing, calypso and other genres to give the sense of a street band quickly shifting gears to get the tourists to drop a few pesos into their instrument cases. "Flamingo," a tune associated with Duke Ellington, gets a tranquil treatment, perhaps signifying the indigo melancholy of the hangover that inevitably follows a weekend of excess.

 
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