Revenge Records presents
The Legendary Paris Concert
Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute), Johnny Coles (trumpet on So Long Eric), Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone), Jaki Byard (piano), and Dannie Richmond (drums), Charles Mingus (bass)
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From the liner notes by Sue Mingus…
“The first time I was caught stealing records was in Paris in the autumn of 1991. I’d passed through the front door of the city’s largest record store and was standing outside on the Champs Elysees when three store guards sprang out of nowhere and surrounded me. They were waving walkie talkies and shouting in French to someone inside the store. I had about 20 stolen Mingus CDs under my arms.
The guards shoved me back through the entrance, escorted me swiftly past the cash register which I had ignored on my way out, up a long stairway and across a series of executive suites until I stood before the desk of the store manager. The manager stood up when I entered the room. He was tall and he looked threatening. I explained that I had taken the CDs because the store had no right to sell them. I said they were issued by pirate record companies, none of which was in the habit of paying royalites, and that I had no intention of returning them to their bins.
The manager eyed me with disbelief and said he was calling the police. He reached for the phone. I suggested he call the daily newspapers as well as the television crews for the evening news and also the principal French jazz magazine whose offices happened to be across the street so that I could explain everything to everyone at once.
The manager glared from across his desk and put down the phone. In a gentler tone he declared that a third of the product he was selling fit the category I was condemning, that I had no right to carry off what belonged to a legitimate enterprise, that he was offering the public what the public wanted to buy.
I stood my ground. I reminded him that pirated CDs compete with legitimate records in the store. I said he was abetting a crime. I told him I was sorry I had not stolen my CDs the previous day when a Mingus’ work called “Epitaph” was being performed in one of the major concert halls in Paris to a less-than-capacity audience. I said that publicity from an arrest would have sold out the hall.
The store manager rose suddenly from his desk and left the room. I waited alone with my CDs. After a while someone arrived to say I would be allowed to leave. When I passed through the front door again, I had the CDs under my arm. This time the alarm bells remained silent.
For years I have rifled through record bins around the world, while on tour, removing illegal Mingus product. I have done this while Charles Mingus was alive and since his death. The ratio in most bins is about three-to-one in favor of the pirates. I stack the illegal records in plain view and walk out in front of the cash register. Although in the old days I piled records under my arms, the packaging of today’s CDs is less manageable. I have stood in the center of record stores and ripped open the difficult plastic CD covers and left them sitting on top of bins. With the exception of Paris, and one store in Chicago, I have never been stopped. By the same token, I have had a negligible effect on the sale of these records. Illegal records and CDs are big business.
So now I will continue my fight on a grander scale. Jazz Workshop Inc, the publisher of Charles Mingus’ legacy of composition, will reissue, legitimately, the best stolen Mingus material on hand. We will press the very material released illegally by others, do it better and sell it back again– with comprehensive notes, authentic photographs, historical data, cheaper rates. We will undersell the pirates and put them out of business. That is our plan. Joel Dorn heard my story and now we are armed: Revenge Records! Anyone in possession of pirated Mingus CDs, please contact us at the address below.
The presses are waiting.
Charles Mingus took his sextet to Europe in April of 1964, including Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute, Johnny Coles on trumpet, Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone, Jaki Byard on piano and Dannie Richmond on drums. For its first release, Revenge Records has chosen material from one of the two most pirated concerts on the tour, the legendary Paris concert that took place on Friday, April 17, 1964 at the Salle Wagram.
According to Johnny Coles, a Russian Circus performed in the Salle Wagram just prior to the Mingus Sextet’s engagement, and the stage was still extremely high off the ground. (Coles actually counted 22 steps from the ground floor before the concert.) He says that after playing a solo early in the set he started to feel a severe pain in his sides. When the pain became unbearable he headed across the stage, walked through the curtain and “fell down all those steps. I never even got a dent in my horn when I hit bottom!” The actress Mae Mercer took him first to a French hospital which refused him because, as they said, “he didn’t speak French.” They went on to the American Clinic at Neuilly where he was finally admitted. He stayed in the room Louis Armstrong once occupied and was attended by the same doctor. Three days later when he woke up, the operating physician greeted him. “It’s nice to see you alive,” he said. “If you’d come to the hospital five minutes later I wouldn’t be talking to you.” The tour continued without Johnny Coles, although his trumpet was placed on an empty chair on stage each night, in tribute. Coles can be heard here on the only complete tune he played, “So Long Eric.”
Jaki Byard remembers that all the musicians were aware, as they traveled through Europe, that people were out there taping them. “We knew they were doing it. We couldn’t do anything about it.” Mingus regularly complained about the movie-cameras and recorders that were visible and finally, after several other incidents, relieved someone in the front row of his tape-deck.
The concert at the Salle Wagram should not be confused with a second concert the following day, Saturday, April 18, at the Theatre Champs-Elysee (which started after midnight and is often dated Sunday, April 19th.) That second concert was released in the US on LP by Prestige/Fantasy under the title “The Great Concert of Charles Mingus,” in the mid-seventies. The release caused some confusion by adding one track from the first concert at the Salle Wagram and then compounding the confusion by mistitling the track! Although the piece was Mingus’ farewell song to Eric Dolphy, “So Long Eric,” it was for some unfathomable reason given the title of one of Mingus’ best known compositions, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.”
Because this titling error was made on the original and illegal French release (a further sign that Mingus was unaware of it) , it was then inadvertently perpetuated by Fantasy and other European pirate versions. Even Joel Dorn, who collaborated with Revenge Records on our first release, plucked the same mistaken title off the pirate master. We have now (in our second pressing) corrected this error, once and for all.
PLEASE NOTE: Any CD version of either one of these two Paris concerts (with the exception of the Revenge version), is pirated and will no doubt sell for far more than the twenty dollars set by Revenge. In a taped interview from 1975, Charles Mingus complains: “the French people put a record out without even paying me for it. I haven’t got paid for it yet. Fantasy (Prestige) assumed the French had paid for it so they bought it from them. But no one has paid the musicians.” Revenge Records has done so, at last, but there are countless versions on the market that have not.
Notes on compositions performed at the concert
• Peggy’s Blue Skylight
“I wrote it on the piano at Peggy Hitchcock’s house. We were friends. She wanted to take the blue plastic shield from the cockpit of a fighter plane and replace her skylight with it so the sky would always be blue. The government wouldn’t let her do it.” (Mingus quoted in Charles Mingus: More Than a Fake Book, Jazz Workshop, Inc., 1991, distributed by Hal Leonard).
• Orange Was the Color of Her Dress Then Blue Silk
Mingus had written an earlier composition,”Song with Orange,” about which he said: “It was written for a Robert Herridge television show. It’s about a talented composer who meets a rich girl that tries to ruin his life. She doesn’t have anything to offer him but money, so she asks him to write a song and dedicate it to her dress which was orange. She knew nothing rhymes with ‘orange.” Although “Orange was the Color of her Dress Then Blue Silk” is another tune entirely, it may have stemmed from the same television show. This is its first recorded version. (It was at the beginning of this tune that Johnny Coles collapsed, and the show continued without him.)
• Meditations on Integration
Mingus has said: “On our 1964 European tour people never heard “Meditations” the way it was supposed to be done with a trumpet . . . . Most of the melody was left out because Johnny Coles passed out on the bandstand early in the tour. He had an ulcer operation and it started to hemorrhage. I didn’t even know it until Eric Dolphy kept playing his horn and called my attention that something was wrong. Later on the French people put a record out without paying me.”
Mingus said this song “grew out of a newspaper article that Eric Dolphy read describing conditions in the South,” including the fact that people of various colors were being separated into dungeons “built especially for darker-skinned people, with barbed wire and electric fences. . . .They don’t have ovens and gas faucets yet but they have electric fences. So I wrote a piece called ‘Meditations on Integration,” or “Meditations for a pair of wire-cutters,” or “Meditations on inner peace,” a prayer that we can find some wire cutters and get out.”
• Fables of Faubus
First recorded on May 5, 1959 for Columbia Records, on Mingus Ah-Um. Orval E. Faubus was a governor of Arkansas who, in 1957, sent out the National Guard to prevent a few black children from entering Little Rock’s Central High School. Mingus’ condemnation of this action was apparently too strong for those in charge at Columbia Records, who prohibited Mingus and his drummer Dannie Richmond from singing the following lyrics which, on this recording, are slightly audible in the background:
Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em stab us!
Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em tar and feather us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!
Name me someone who’s ridiculous, Dannie.
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won’t permit integrated schools.
Then he’s a fool!
Boo! Nazi Fascist supremists!
Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)
Name me a handful that’s ridiculous, Dannie Richmond.
Why are they so sick and ridiculous?
Two, four, six, eight: They brainwash and teach you hate.
(From Charles Mingus: More Than a Fake Book.)
Later retitlings of “Fables of Faubus” included “Nix on Nixon” and “Oh, Lord, Help Mr. Ford.” Although Orville Faubus died in the fall of 1994, “Fables of Faubus” lives on.
• So Long Eric (AKA Praying with Eric)
This composition was written as part of Mingus’ continuing argument with Eric Dolphy about his decision to leave Mingus’ group and stay in Europe after the tour. (Other versions have the additional subtitle of “Don’t Stay Over There Too Long.”) Eric Dolphy’s death a few months later gives the title an additional sad resonance.
Sometimes titled “Ow” or “Dedicated to a Genius,” “Parkeriana” is an homage to alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Musicologist Andrew Homzy writes: “Compostionally it is a collage of Be-bop tunes, not all of which were written by Parker. Besides “Ow,” we hear fragments of “Scrapple From The Apple,” the intro to “Kansas City Blues,” Groovin’ High,” “If I Should Lose You,” “Ornithology,” “52nd Street Theme,” “Anthropology,” “Buzzy” and probably others. The solo choruses are based on standard rhythm changes to which Byard adds time and mind-bending anachronisms before launching into a brilliant chronology of jazz piano styles. And listen to the way Mingus and Richmond move the time around! Our greatest scientists have yet to match this accomplishment.”
The photo of the Minguses on the back cover of this CD was taken shortly after the couple returned from a North African tour in the summer of 1977. Mingus, dressed in jalaba and headdress, traveled around New York for a brief period in disguise, though he frequently blew his cover, lapsing into unmistakable mingusspeak.
Remastered by Gene Paul at DB+
Photo by Susanna Ungaro
Album design by Geoff Gans
Historical notes by Shannon Mannin