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Listening Post: Mingus, Porcupine Tree and more


Charles Mingus,The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-1965)” (Mosaic, seven discs, by mail from Mosaic Records, 425 Fairfield Ave., Suite 421, Stamford, Conn. 06902 or www. It’s Mingus’ 90th anniversary year. So the story is that Charles Mingus’ extraordinary widow Sue Mingus – a keeper of the musical flame as passionate as Art Pepper’s widow Laurie – called the great disc producer Michael Cuscuna and asked if he might be interested in some previously unreleased stuff she had in the vaults. In the world of jazz that’s hardly even a question. All Mingus is precious. But now get this: as Cuscuna is eager to tell the world of publicity “of the seven discs in this collection only one of them has ever been available in authorized CD. Almost two full CDs have never been available on CD at all and more than two hours worth of music includes new discoveries – appearing for the first time ever in any form.” This is Mingus’ period following his Impulse masterpiece “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady,” an annus mirabilis in jazz that otherwise saw the advent of Miles Davis’ second great quintet (with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams). You won’t find two of Mingus’ greatest sidemen here – Booker Ervin and Jimmy Knepper – but what is the making of this terrific seven-disc box is the huge quantity of soloing from Mingus’ star horn of the time, Eric Dolphy, who would settle in Europe after this period and die tragically of diabetes in 1964. (Mortality was not as friendly to Mingus’ workshops as it was, oddly, to Duke Ellington and his bandsmen. Mingus’ longtime drummer Danny Richmond died at 56, the same age Mingus was when he died of long-debilitating Lou Gehrig’s disease.) Nor is Dolphy the only soloist Mingus loved among this bunch. His pianist was the great stylistic omni-pianist Jaki Byard, who regularly conjugated jazz styles and eras every time he played. Phenomenal soloing is abundant here as well as Mingus’ live concert masterpiece of the era, his “Meditations on Integration” at the Monterey Festival (called at the time “Meditations on a Pair of Wire Cutters”). Pure joy for serious jazz listeners. Four stars (Jeff Simon)


Porcupine Tree,Octane Twisted” (K-Scope). Fans of Porcupine Tree have grown to expect state-of-the-art progressive rock from the band – from composition to presentation, performance to production. With “Octane Twisted,” an in-concert document from the Steven Wilson-led group’s tour behind its most recent studio album, “The Incident,” that’s exactly what they get. Recorded in Chicago during the same tour that found that band offering an incendiary show at the Town Ballroom in Buffalo, “Octane Twisted” features a performance of “The Incident” album in full, plus a second disc featuring live renditions of favorites from previous Porcupine Tree albums. It’s mind-blowingly powerful stuff, and it has been beautifully recorded and pristinely reproduced with serious attention to sonic detail. “Octane Twisted” cements Porcupine Tree’s status as modern progressive rock’s leading light. Four stars (Jeff Miers)


Elbow, “Dead in the Boot” (Xenon). This delightfully idiosyncratic British band finally delivers the long-promised collection of b-sides, outtakes and also-rans from throughout its 15-year career. Unlike so many of these “catch-all” style releases, “Dead in the Boot” unfolds like a legitimate album, a collection that boasts a certain amount of necessity. Here, in fact, is so much of what Elbow does so well – the dreamy, esoteric ballads, the oddly sculpted anthems, the sturdy blend of stunning lyric imagery and ethereal harmonies that make the group the thinking man’s Coldplay. A must-have for fans. Three and 1/2 stars (J.M.)


Beethoven, Symphonies 5 and 7, Live at Carnegie Hall, the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner, conductor (WQXR Carnegie Hall). The Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique is a band of instruments from Beethoven’s era. Every once in a while you can sense the instruments’ antiquity. You might hear a thin tone here, a scrape there. But that in no way takes away from the vitality of this music. These performances are not only lively, they can be explosive. The eminent John Eliot Gardiner has a great instinct for tempo and he presents these two warhorses with dignity and drama. Dynamics are beautifully finessed. The slow movements are tremendously affecting as you imagine that this is what it sounded like in Beethoven’s day. It’s fascinating to hear how even music you know inside out can change when the texture is subtly altered. Four stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)