Flowers for a Lady

I first heard this George Adams tune on a video of a Charles Mingus quintet at the 1974 Umbria jazz festival.  At the time I remember being impressed by how much energy the band was putting out, playing frenetic solos at a burning tempo (about 280 bpm).  After revisiting it on youtube recently I can’t help but notice that Mingus – by far the most experienced musician in the group – looks bored by his bandmates’ frequent forays into atonal wailing, even though the crowd goes wild for it.  I suspect he finds little emotional content to all that sound and fury.

The more I think about it, the more this song seems anti-Mingus.  The best Mingus compositions combine singable, haunting melodies with dense harmonies and dynamic arrangements to create a sound that is deeply complex but accessible to any music listener.  This song has a very short form, and as a result it has only 14 bars to build excitement before the pedal point climax.  This encourages the player to jump into it at top volume and stay there until the end.  The harmonies are also kept to triads and tetrads, which help the soloist sound more edgy when deviating from the changes.

Flowers For A Lady

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