SKF NOTE: The background on this Frankie Dunlop interview is posted here. Most of Frankie’s published comments, rightly so, are about his work with Thelonious Monk. Here Frankie is sharing words of wisdom about Charles Mingus.
Frankie Dunlop: I said something to Mingus about a tempo one time when I was playing with him. He looked at me in the middle of a tune and said, “Hey, Frankie. Keep playing. I got to go over here and talk to Joe.” Joe was the fellow who owned the Half Note.
The tempo was way upstairs and I wasn’t adjusted to playing that fast anyhow. I’d just gotten into New York.
Now, Don Friedman was on piano. It was just me and him. No bass.
Now, it would’ve been bad enough for me with the bass. Jimmy Knepper and Booker Ervin were in the band too.
Mingus finally comes back on the bandstand, picks his bass up and starts playing. Same tune. He turns to me and says, “Hey, man. Hey, Frankie. The tempos gone down, man. That not the tempo I started.”
And I guess it had gone down. I was scuffling. That man was a perfectionist. He didn’t tell me that because he disliked me. If he disliked me, if he didn’t think I could’ve made the gig, he wouldn’t have hired me. But Mingus was such a perfectionist that the things the average musician or bandleader would say, “The hell with it,” he wouldn’t let it slide.
All of the geniuses are like that. They may be eccentric, but deep down inside they’re concerned about their music. Monk, Rollins, Miles Davis, Mingus. They didn’t want any substitutions, anything second-hand, for what it was really supposed to be.
And I’m glad that I came up under that, under the guiding lights of those cats.
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