Warming Up

Warming Up

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Return With Mingus Thursday

Hey, look who’s actually writing a blog post! Been a while, I know. No excuses. So, did you know that today is Mingus Thursday? Well, it is.

A bunch of years ago when I first started studying with Dennis Sandole I happened to mention to the Maestro that I was a big fan of blues music, dating back to 7th and 8th grade when I first started buying music (it was tapes back then!). Anyway, as I had mention in a previous post, Week Four of my Sandole lesson cycle involved taking the chords to the first eight bars of a standard and creating my own melody on those chord changes (substituting some of the Maestro’s substitute chords was also encouraged). After I had mention to whole affinity to the blues, Mr. Sandole suggested that I use tunes by Charles Mingus for my standard of choice. “There is a lot of blues feeling in Mingus’ music. A lot of Duke Ellington as well. Pick songs by Charles Mingus.” So I did. For many Week Four assignments.

I had already been a fan of Mingus’ records. There is raw emotional power in Mingus’ music. Joy, sadness, anger, loss, frustration, love, lust, discovery, confusion. Sometimes all in the space of one song. The music can be sophisticated and sloppy or dirty at the same time. There is an absolute connection to the history of jazz and a simultaneous connection to all things current as well as to the future. Not a lot of figures in the music can pull this off. And Mingus was kinda nuts. Just read his “autobiography” Beneath the Underdog. Fact or fiction, or a weird combination of both, it’s just a really fun read. What a character Mingus was. Don’t believe me? Check out this article Mingus wrote that details a method on how one can train their cat to use the toilet. Seems pretty straightforward. Maybe I should try this with my cat.

So, there are many eras of Mingus to check out. I love ‘em all. Mingus was fruitful and creative always. And his bands had some of the best musicians. His longtime drummer, Dannie Richmond is, I think, one of the most underrated drummers ever. Perfect for Sir Charles. Which brings me to this gem of ephemeral listening goodness: NPR’s First Listen is streaming some of a new Mosaic Boxset entitled The Jazz Workshop Concerts, 1964-65. Of course it’s awesome. And the band is an interesting one: Jaki Byard on piano (playing the whole history of the instrument – as always!), Richmond on drums, and Mingus making up the rhythm section. The frontline is from Detroit: Charles McPherson on alto (sounding Bird-like but with more avant-isms than he displays on his own records), and the little-recorded but very capable trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer. Mingus played with Mingus for years but is only featured on a couple of records. Hearing him live like this is a real treat – at least for me it is.


So definitely check out this First Listen while it’s still streaming for free. This one is special. All Mosaic sets are worth the bread; I’m sure that this one will be as well.

Happy Mingus Thursday!