Today we’re celebrating Charles Mingus’s birthday. Here’s a video of one of my favorite Mingus tunes, “So Long Eric,” taken from Belgium’s “Jazz Pour Tous” TV program in April 1964.
The quintet’s lineup includes drummer Dannie Richmond, pianist Jaki Byard, tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, and alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy, for whom the song is named. Often, the song is thought to be in remembrance of Dolphy, who died at a young age, but a passage from the Charles Mingus: More Than A Fake Book explains.
“‘So Long Eric’ is not a eulogy, but rather a complaint: Eric Dolphy had announced that he would be leaving Mingus’ group while they were on tour in Europe in the spring of 1964. Sadly, Dolphy died shortly afterward in Berlin on June 29, 1964.”
Mingus kicks off the melody, as he often did on this tune, but it’s the band’s cohesiveness that brings the composition to life. Mingus takes a great bass solo at the 2:43 mark and has some great interplay with Richmond after Dolphy’s solo.