Jazz Is: 19 – “Moanin'”

by A. Jay Adler on December 1, 2010
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I’m breaking a rule, and maybe committing a sacrilege. So sue me. Better yet – jazz me. Founding principle of the Jazz Is series: not just good music, but interesting video. Principle betrayed. “Moanin’,” by Charles Mingus, first appeared on the album Blues and Roots, in 1959, a year after the Bobby Timmons song of the same title, another classic, for Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. This version is by Mingus Big Band, recorded in 1993, fourteen years after Mingus’s death, on the Nostalgia In Times Square CD. I like this version even more than the original. While the Mingus version has darker undertones, this version swings more wildly, in ever expanding, saxophonic and trumpeted, fully orchestrated, metropolitan and comic, near cacophonous bliss. One YouTube commenter likens it to a “fucking bank heist.” Enter into it with Ronnie Cuber’s first baritone sax moans, and you won’t even notice the missing video. It is a sight to hearken to.

Personnel: Craig Handy, John Stubblefield, Alex Foster , Roger Rosenberg, Ronnie Cuber, Steve Slagle (reeds); Chris Kase, Jack Walrath, Lew Soloff, Randy Brecker, Ryan Kisor (trumpet); Art Baron (trombone, bass trombone); Frank Lacy, Sam Burtis (trombone); Kenny Drew, Jr. (piano); Joe Locke (vibraphone); Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Victor Jones (drums); Ray Mantilla (congas).

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