Charles Mingus – Pithecanthropus Erectus

Charles Mingus – Pithecanthropus Erectus

subtitled: Part 3 of 3, in which Aaron celebrates 10 years of living in his current town, and gets 3 Mingus albums for $6 (and his mind gets blown). MINI SERIES!!!

The Preamble:

I’m a jazzhead from way back. I mean, as a kid, sitting there with the headphones on, digging through my grandparents’ swing records… But then flirting with getting stuffed in lockers by the tech hall meatheads waaay back in high school. I mean, when the lugs (all deference, Mr. 1537) were listening to AC/DC and getting into fights in the smoking area, I was talking about chord and key changes in Harry Connick, Jr. songs. I never got stuffed in lockers, but probably only ‘cos I was also on the basketball team. Probably? Sure.

I recently bought this 2CD RM set that came with 3 Mingus records, brand new, for $6. Because why would you not? And here are my thoughts on these records…

Oddly, this boxed set moves us backwards through time. On CD1, as you’ll recall, is the venerable Ah Um album (1959). Then, the first four tracks on CD2 were the album The Clown (1957). And now here are tracks 5-8 from CD2, this album (1956).


Pithecanthropus Erectus.

Having never heard it before, I looked it up on Wiki, and they say:

“Mingus noted that this was the first album where he taught arrangements to his musicians by ear in lieu of putting the chords and arrangements in writing… According to Mingus’s liner notes, the title song is a ten-minute tone poem, depicting the rise of man from his hominid roots (Pithecanthropus erectus) to an eventual downfall due to “his own failure to realize the inevitable emancipation of those he sought to enslave, and his greed in attempting to stand on a false security.” The song’s title translates into “Upright Ape-Man”, which holds a dual meaning with “upright” referring to Mingus’ bass.”


“The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave it a maximum four-star rating and added it to its core collection, describing it as “One of the truly great modern jazz albums”. In the same review, “the all-in ensemble work” in parts of the first track, “Pithecanthropus Erectus”, is described as being “absolutely crucial to the development of free collective improvisation in the following decade”.”

I love everything about all of that!

And the music itself? Well my goodness, it’s a total gem. The title track is a sweet blues swing with momentary blasts of crazy free-form thrown in. Whoa. Up next it’s A Foggy Day, which is one of my lovely wife’s favourite songs, and the version here is beautiful and swingin’, once it gets going. It just needs to work past its skronky intro and outro bookends. The bass solo here is, of course, phenomenal. And what is that at 7:07, did someone drop a quarter or something?

Profile Of Jackie is pure light and airy gorgeousness, mellow yet picking up the pace when it needs to, a perfect late-night song. Love Chant rumble and rolls its way into more perfect jamming swing. I just love all of this.

In Sum:

A damn-near perfect record. Just WOW.

The 2CD Set In Sum:

Getting these three albums (Ah Um, The Clown, and Pithecanthropus Erectus) for $6 brand new is going to go down in history as one of my best musical scores of 2015. These are three vastly important records. I will not stop listening to them. If you can find this set at a comparable price, you would be very, very well-served to take it home with you. Completely recommended.

mingus ah um

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