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.
This review originally appeared on nylpm.