SKF NOTE: As 2022 draws to a close, bassist, composer, bandleader Charles Mingus is on my mind. Last night, adding more music from my library to my iPod, I was reminded of the never-before-released Mingus albums I’ve purchased recently.
Mingus’s band at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival first opened my ears and heart to jazz. The jazz I had listened to was a foreign language. It sounded okay, but I didn’t understand it. Imagine listening to a great speaker narrating an audio book in a foreign language. You might think, “I wish I knew what that guy was saying.”
For me, Mingus was the Great Jazz Translator. The moment before Mingus’s band started playing I didn’t understand the language. A song or two into his set at Newport 1970 something changed. I could understand bits-and-pieces. If music was words, I was understanding some of Charles Mingus’s words. More important, although I still didn’t speak the language of jazz, I could understand it.
After my 1970 Newport experience I bought and listened to as many Mingus albums as I could. There was very little of Mingus’s music I didn’t love. Also, I loved his way of presenting his music as “organized chaos.”
He wanted his musicians to take risks. Forcibly, if necessary. Unannounced, Mingus might stop the rest of the band during one player’s solo, basically to see if the soloist could stand on his own.
Mingus’s music uses stop time, half time, double time, and no time. Organized chaos.
And beautiful melodies. Mingus wrote some timeless melodies. Among them, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” “Better Get Hit In Your Soul,” “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers,” and “Boogie Stop Shuffle.”
The recent Mingus releases in my library, all three of them live dates, are loaded with classic Mingus musicianship. Including the “chaos” moment that have me sharply focused, wondering, “Where is the music going?”
The two drummers on these three albums are Dannie Richmond or Roy Brooks. Among the several times I saw Mingus in concert, Dannie was most often the drummer. But I did see-and was very impressed with-Roy Brooks with Mingus in some New York City nightclub.
So, as I leave behind 2022 and ease into 2023, I find it curious that I’ve reconnected with Mingus. There was a long stretch where Mingus’s music didn’t pique my curiosity. As if I had heard enough of it, and maybe it was time to listen to other music.
But these new Mingus releases, and some reissues I’ve picked up of previous Mingus albums, have renewed my love and interest in this great musician. The Great Translator.
In chronological order, the new Mingus albums I’ve acquired, and their respective drummers, are:
Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden (2018) – Roy Brooks.
Mingus At Carnegie Hall (Deluxe Edition) [2021 Remaster] – Dannie Richmond.
The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s (Live) (2022) – Roy Brooks
Check ’em out. Happy New Year!