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Charles Mingus – Tijuana Moods











I first need to begin with huge thanks AGAIN to the mighty Marshall from Free City Sounds. He sent me this LP, and when it arrived in the mail I about fell over. Blown. Away. THANK YOU SIR!

And what a gift. Here is Mingus in 1957 (released in 1962). With him are Clarence Shaw (trumpet), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Shafi Hadi (alto and tenor sax), Bill Triglia (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums), Ysabel Morel (vocals, castanets), Frankie Dunlop (percussion), and Lonne Elder (vocals).

Some things I noticed:


As I stared lovingly at the cover art, was ‘Charlie’ Mingus, not ‘Charles.’ Says Wiki: “Mingus hated all nicknames derived from Charles (“Don’t call me Charlie; that’s not a man’s name, that’s a name for a horse”).


This edition is 180g Pure Virgin Vinyl (presumably made with 180 virgins!). It is “audiophile grade,” has deluxe inner sleeves, and was a one-pressing limited collector’s edition. Drooling yet? Me too!


How many times it states, on the cover and (mainly) in the liner notes, that this was the album that Mingus felt was his best work. It’s mentioned A LOT.

And now, before I attempt to write about this, I offer you a…


I am (likely) completely) under-qualified to write about this album. More knowledgeable people than me have written about it for decades, so if you want a real review, the internet is the place for you.

Still with me? Let’s go!

Dizzy Moods shifts a lot, bouncing from one mood to another. The players are getting a workout on track one! Of course, they nail it with aplomb.

Ysabel’s Table Dance is barely-restrained mayhem, that must’ve been one helluva dance! It becomes a sweet swing groove that fills me with so much bliss. Shafi Hadi’s sax line is killer… but wait, Ysabel’s crazy dance returns! And then we wind down beautifully, then we swing a while… and Ysabel sighs and we know we’re there. Whew. What a track!

Also, I have to assume that the cover photo is of Ysabel (or a lady meant to represent her), smoking her cigarette to calm herself following that performance and showing some lovely leg.

Slippers is a bonus track here, and it’s a full on latin club dance track explosion. Gorgeousness spilling out of the club into the warm city street… hot as hell! That trumpet solo absolutely slays.

Tijuana Gift Shop is a quick slinky bop jazz excursion that cannot help but put a smile on your face. All the instruments take turns in the spotlight, but nothing’s overbearing, nothing’s out of place, and everything just swings along perfectly. By the trumpet walks us out, you’re so into the groove you’re sad it’s ending so soon! I would place this as one of my favourite tracks of the form.

Los Mariachis is another sweet jazz track until the trumpet leads the shift into a happy dance middle section. Its voice is almost human, eloquent and joyful. We return to the swing and a rollicking trombone. We shift again, this time a bluesy  bottom end as the sax wails above. Then we ramp up the joyful again, this time the piano taking the lead, before the main swing line comes back briefly. Then we lift off into wailing trumpet and crescendo… then back again to bluesy and gentle…

Duke Ellington’s Flamingo is a gorgeous slow dance with a trumpet line I knew I recognized – I’ve heard Wynton Marsalis play a faster version of it on his amazing Standard Time Vol. 3: The Resolution Of Romance album. Here we’re in a slower mood, but the trumpet still reigns supreme. This performance is stellar!

In Sum:

Perfectly written and conceived, this is vital, passionate playing. It’s exciting as hell, smooth jazz meets experimental forays, all tied together with wonderful elements from south of the border. I love Mingus, and I absolutely fell in love with the energy, style, and virtuosity of this album.

I cannot thank Marshall of Free City Sounds enough for this wonderful record. COMMUNITY!

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