Year: 1957 (Released 1962)
From: The album “Tijuana Moods“
I’m not even close to being an authority on Jazz music, I usually like so-called Cool Jazz, old New Orleans Jazz, some Hard bop. But if it gets to chaotic, I lose interest. But this is something totally different to what usually gets my liking. It fascinates me, almost in a “puttin me in trance” type of way.
Charles Mingus claimed to have once traveled to Tijuana and slept with 23 prostituted in a brothel there in one night. There, he was also exposed to Mexican music for the first time in its natural setting. The mixture of sex and music excited him so much that it led him to record an album fusing jazz with Latin music.
The second track of Tijuana Moods is “Ysabel’s Table Dance,” one of his first forays into music for dance. It was inspired by the sensual flamenco dancer Ysabel Morel, the beautiful woman standing beside the jukebox in the album’s iconic cover. The exciting song also features her playing castanets at rapid-fire pace and spurring on the band. Mingus’s shot at re-creating his experience south of the border, during a “very blue period” in his life when he was “minus a wife,” this is, like much Mingus, alternately riotous and deeply grounded in the blues, and always passionate.
The song opens with the band in flamenco mode, with everyone driving the energy level higher: Ysabel Morel’s frantic castanets, Mingus’s bowed bass, the piano, the yells of “hey!” (maybe from Ysabel), the dark, forboding horns, and later Mingus’s picked flamenco lines. This is as charging and full-on as any of Mingus’s blues numbers from Blues and Roots, but in a completely different idiom – just another aspect of Mingus’s musical personality, and why he preferred “Mingus music” as a label over “jazz,” which was too confining.
As his songs frequently did, “Table Dance” alternates between moods. The blasting flamenco gives way, after the band seems almost ready to trash the studio a la early Who, to a swinging blues section with solo by altoist Shafi Hadi – which slides almost effortlessly, and completely logically, back to a brief flamenco interlude before the band plays in unison, in blues mode again. In fact, as the alternation continues, it seems to be a way to control the energy level – without the interludes, Mingus’s band would have nowhere else to go, as at their peak in the flamenco sections, they’re just on the good side of the line that separates jazz at its peak, from a cacophonous mass of noise. In that, as elsewhere, Mingus prefigured much of the free jazz movement still to come – this music was originally recorded in 1957.
Tijuana Moods was actually released five years after it was recorded. By the Mingus had embraced once again the bop cause and this makes his venture into Latin territory stand out even more in his awesome discography.