Among many amazing sounds on Cornell 1964, one inevitably stands out: Charles Mingus's laughter. He's happy. Those chuckles speak volumes, considering that in later years they would be replaced by grunts and gut-punches. But back to the music: The recording captures everything, making listeners feel like they're in the auditorium with the band and the audience. You'll wish you were there to witness the breaks on "Fables of Faubus" as pianist Jaki Byard morphs the familiar "Yankee Doodle" melody into insanity and the band follows suit throughout the 30-minute marathon: Eric Dolphy trades off on alto sax, flute and bass clarinet; bass-master Mingus does what he does best; Johnny Coles lends his sweet lips to the trumpet and Clifford Jordan his to the tenor sax; and drummer Dannie Richmond holds it together. (With this lineup, it's not hard to see why Mingus was happy.) Numbers like Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" and Mingus's Dolphy tribute "So Long Eric" are pure finesse. Longtime Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins's liner notes reveal that Mingus's widow Sue stumbled upon this recording while rummaging through old tapes, making it an even greater treasure. Previously unknown to most historians and discographers, the performance was likely never forgotten by the students lucky enough to have their cheers and laughter recorded in the background.
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