What is This Thing Called Love

Charles Mingus, bass and piano; Thad Jones, trumpet; John LaPrta, alto sax; Teo Macero, tenor sax; Jackson Wiley, cello; Clem DeRosa, drums

I have nearly 30 records of music by Charles Mingus so I thought I heard it all. It’s good to know there’s still more. Aim, a small Australian label, brings together two long out-of-print Mingus small combo sessions from the 1950s in which standards feature more prominently than Mingus’s own idiosyncratic compositions. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that the music is any less idiosyncratically Mingus’s . Take the perennial “What Is This Thing Called Love,” which is nominally by Cole Porter. Here it becomes a launching pad for an elaborate contrapuntal weaving of disparate moods channeled through some curious timbral combinations: a standard bebop instrumentation augmented by the unlikely presence of a cello, making for a rather bottom-heavy ensemble so treasured by its bass-toting leader.

—FJO