Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Charles Mingus

  • Three or Four Shades of Blue [Atlantic, 1977] A-
  • Cumbia and Jazz Fusion [Atlantic, 1978] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Three or Four Shades of Blue [Atlantic, 1977]
Mingus's elitist aesthetic theories have always put me off his music, so when I'm told that the oldies on side one have been recorded with more fire in the past, I can only respond that now I'll want to hear them for myself. Side two is the best composed bebop I've come across all year; Larry Coryell and Sonny Fortune contribute their sharpest performances since fusion became commercial, and that's the least of it. A-

Cumbia and Jazz Fusion [Atlantic, 1978]
I know I'm not supposed to say this, but I've never bought Mingus as Great Jazz Genius--Important Jazz Eccentric is more like it, I'd say, especially in his more ambitious compositions. The 27-minute title fantasia is rich, lively, irreverent, and enjoyable, but it's marred by overly atmospheric Hollywood-at-the-carnival moments, while the kitschy assumed seriousness of "Music for 'Todo Modo'" almost ruins its fresh big-band colors. B+