Charles Mingus – The Clown

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The Clown is an album by Charles Mingus recorded and released in 1957 on Atlantic Records as SD-1260. It is the follow-up to 1956’s Pithecanthropus Erectus and features the improvised narration of Jean Shepherd. A deluxe edition of The Clown was issued in 2000 on Rhino featuring two bonus tracks. All the tracks were recorded on March 12, 1957, except for “The Clown”, recorded on February 13 of the same year.

According to Nat Hentoff’s liner notes, Mingus explained why he chose those four tracks for the album: “I selected these four over two others that were more intricate because some of those guys had been saying that I didn’t swing. So I made some that did. This album also has the first blues I’ve made on record.” (Wikipedia).

AllMusic Review by Steve Huey:
The Clown was Charles Mingus’ second masterpiece in a row, upping the already intense emotional commitment of Pithecanthropus Erectus and burning with righteous anger and frustration. With Pithecanthropus, Mingus displayed a gift for airtight, focused arrangements that nonetheless allowed his players great freedom to add to the established mood of each piece. The Clown refines and heightens that gift; instead of just writing heads that provide launch points for solos, Mingus tries to evoke something specific with every piece, and even his most impressionistic forays have a strong storytelling quality. In fact, The Clown’s title cut makes that explicit with a story verbally improvised by Jean Shepherd (yes, the same Jean Shepherd responsible for A Christmas Story) from a predetermined narrative. There are obvious jazz parallels in the clown’s descent into bitterness with every unresponsive, mean-spirited audience, but the track is even more interesting for the free improvisations led by trombonist Jimmy Knepper, as the group responds to Shepherd’s story and paints an aural backdrop. It’s evidence that Mingus’ compositional palette was growing more determinedly modern, much like his increasing use of dissonance, sudden tempo changes, and multiple sections. The Clown introduced two of Mingus’ finest compositions in the driving, determined “Haitian Fight Song” and the ’40s-flavored “Reincarnation of a Lovebird,” a peaceful but melancholy tribute to Charlie Parker; Mingus would return to both throughout his career. And, more than just composing and arranging, Mingus also begins to take more of the spotlight as a soloist; in particular, his unaccompanied sections on “Haitian Fight Song” make it one of his fieriest moments ever. Mingus may have matched the urgency of The Clown on later albums, but he never quite exceeded it. (



Track listing:
All tracks written by Charles Mingus.

“Haitian Fight Song” – 11:57
“Blue Cee” – 7:48
“Reincarnation of a Lovebird” – 8:31
“The Clown” – 12:29
Deluxe Edition bonus tracks:
“Passions of a Woman Loved” – 9:52
“Tonight at Noon” – 5:57

Charles Mingus – bass
Shafi Hadi – alto and tenor saxophone
Jimmy Knepper – trombone
Wade Legge – piano
Dannie Richmond – drums
Jean Shepherd – narration (track 4)

Released: Late August/early September 1957[1]
Recorded: February 13 and March 12, 1957
Atlantic Studios, New York City
Length: 40:41
Label: Atlantic
Producer: Nesuhi Ertegün