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Java Jazz Man: The Genius Of Charlie Mingus, by Wiggia

Sunday, February 19, 2017 0:20
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Almost all of the current jazz musicians have been influenced by the past, some more than others. Indeed some despite their own fame could almost be called tribute acts; that would be grossly unfair, yet for those there is a very close relationship with the music that influenced them.

For others that early influence only drove them on down a path of their own, Charlie Mingus was one such artist. Notoriously difficult to work with, he was uncompromising and would berate anyone who did not toe his line and sackings were not unusual or fights – he was sacked by Ellington for fighting .

His Wiki page is worth a read and is comprehensive…..

Very few bassists, even famous ones, break through to become band leaders, composers, writers; in fact it is difficult to think of anyone other than Mingus who achieved that status. Much of his music coming from a hard bop and soul influenced background was ground-breaking, his bigger groups and bands especially so.

And he also, if they could stand the pace, produced some outstanding musicians that played alongside and went on to form their own groups, people like Pepper Adams and Horace Parlan, just two of many.

Mingus must be one of a very small group of musicians who have played with Louis Armstrong , Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker; he could never be accused of being stuck in a groove.

His first major work in his own name came in ‘56 with Pithecanthropus Erectus [aka Java Man - Ed.] that also showcased Jackie Mclean on alto, one of my favorite saxophonists but clearly a Parker disciple, and the talented pianist Mal Waldron. There were elements of free jazz in this album but with Mingus there were elements of almost everything in all his albums and there were a lot of them in the sixties.

For me it was his Mingus Ah Um album that really got me hooked on his music and that was followed by Blues and Roots and many more.

This is a ‘75 Montreux Jazz Festival recording of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat from the Ah Um album and featuring a wonderful solo from Gerry Mulligan and the opener from pianist Don Pullen. The drummer here is Danny Richmond who was with Mingus to the very end, one of the greatest jazz drummers of his era.

And for a complete change of mood, from the same period ‘57 Ysabel’s Table Dance from the Tijuana Moods album.

This from a live ‘64 concert has an amazing piano solo from Jaki Byard and features Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and if nothing else shows that modern jazz can swing with the best when you have musicians of this calibre.

Hardly needs any introduction, Moanin’ from the ‘59 Blues and Roots album at the time a number that was as Eric Dolphy would say “Far Ahead” made an enormous impression at the time and still does as a jazz standard of the highest quality.

Finally a tribute to the man, a Mingus album: Me Myself and Eye 1978, Mingus composed and wrote the album but was by this time, a year before his death, unable to play, suffering as he was from ALS; but this big band did him proud with this rendition of “Devil Woman” featuring Laryll Coryell on guitar Michael Brecker on tenor sax and Randy Brecker on trumpet; also, there are Pepper Adams on Baritone and Lee Konitz alto.

DEVIL WOMAN CHARLES MINGUS from rascaldani on Vimeo.

Of all the albums of modern jazz I have, Mingus remains along with Roland Kirk at or near the top of most played. His work is lauded as comparable with classical compositions and is used as teaching material in many forms of music, a giant of music whatever the form.

For those interested this film Triumph of the Underdog is worth watching, a Mingus biography.

Charles Mingus Triumph of the Underdog by filmow
Sackerson adds:

A favourite with both Wiggia and JD is “Money Jungle” (1962), where Mingus plays with Max Roach and Duke Ellington:


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