I'll Remember Mingus
December 18, 2007 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Even if he was a world-class weirdo (or, if you take his words literally, three world-class weirdoes) who spent time in Bellevue, enlisted his psychotherapist to write his liner notes, and allegedly taught his cat to use the toilet (h/t to MeFi's urbanwhaleshark), I'll best remember Charles Mingus for giving me his 1960 take on "I'll Remember April", featuring the most exciting four minutes of music in my entire collection (starting at the 9:25 mark of the video).

Recorded at 1960's Antibes Jazz Festival for Atlantic Records, this performance of "I'll Remember April" is notable both for the appearance of troubled expatriate jazz pianist Bud Powell (whose late-career stay in France inspired tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon's star turn in 1986's Round Midnight), as well as the frenetic trading of fours and twos by saxophonists Booker Ervin (tenor, the guy on the right in the video) and Eric Dolphy (alto, on the left).

Ervin may have been lost in the shuffle of the great 50s and 60s tenor saxophonists such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, but Eric Dolphy stands out among the reedmen of his day. Despite recording Free Jazz with Ornette Coleman, Dolphy's recordings illustrate how he was more intent on pushing the limits of form rather than disregarding it altogether. A tune like "245", clipped from a European variety show takes be-bop's energy and song structure, adding atonality and the illusion of chaotic freedom to the mix. This made Dolphy an ideal foil for Mingus, who took traditional gospel and blues forms and constructed a canon of memorable and influential jazz classics as unique as their composer. Here's The Mingus Dynasty Big Band burning through the classic gospel call-and-response testimony of "Better Git Hit In Yo Soul" from 1980.

Besides the fire stoked between Ervin and Dolphy on this cut, the at Antibes album is widely regarded as one of the greatest live records in jazz history, and features the definitive version of Mingus' composition "What Love?," which the All Music Guide says is, "clearly advanced music, the kind of music only skilled musicians like Mingus, Dolphy, and Bud Powell could pull off, but this performance is so grateful, even casual jazz fans will be seduced by (it)."

Bonus "I'll Remember Aprils": Max, Clifford and Sonny! Carmine Ragusa Tony Bennett and Buddy Rich! Sarah Vaughan! Errol Garner! Stan Getz!
posted by peacecorn (25 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Hooray! First post in the blue! Let's hope I searched effectively enough to not get bounced...
posted by peacecorn at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

It's going to take me a while to dig through these, but I'm sure it'll be worth it. Mingus was hands-down my favorite bassist. Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is one of my favorite jazz cuts of all time.

Now I've got to go dig up the one disc of his I have - I'll be seriously disappointed if I can't find it.
posted by god hates math at 9:51 AM on December 18, 2007

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus.

Nicely done.
posted by sleepy pete at 9:56 AM on December 18, 2007

Cats using toilets is funny, but pretty common. Maybe not back then, though.
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on December 18, 2007

Oh Fart! I tried to flag this as fantastic and hit double post instead. My hands hurt from pulling spark plugs out of my '86 Buick Century in the cold. All of which is an odd preamble to my saying, "peacecorn, this is a fantastic post. I <3 Mingus."
posted by Mister_A at 10:02 AM on December 18, 2007

I have always struggled with jazz, but Mingus got me all the way there. Moanin' is one of my favorite songs ever. The Tito Puente version is simply amazing.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:03 AM on December 18, 2007

Nice. Exactly that stretch of music came up in an Askme recently. Fantastic. There's also some good trading fours between Dolphy and Oliver Nelson on Straight Ahead, which I can't find any oneline version of. Dolphy is always more wigged out than anyone else and he's best playing next to a straight man like Ervin or Nelson.
posted by creasy boy at 10:03 AM on December 18, 2007

peacecorn: Hooray! First post in the blue! Let's hope I searched effectively enough to not get bounced...

"Hmm," said Dante, as he put down his pen. "Well, that's that. I've just finished writing The Divine Comedy. I sure hope I didn't misspell anything."
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 AM on December 18, 2007

In other words: thanks, peacecorn. This is worth more than you know to me-- it's awesome. Favorited, flagged as 'fantastic,' bookmarked, written on my hand, and tattooed above my left knee so that I can look at it when I'm somewhere that I can watch video.
posted by koeselitz at 10:13 AM on December 18, 2007

Here's a little story I've always liked of Mingus meeting Bobby Fischer at Bellevue.
posted by gwint at 10:15 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Who is the bass player in the Mingus Dynasty version? He's good...although the absence of Mingus hollering kind of mars the whole thing.
posted by creasy boy at 10:17 AM on December 18, 2007

This post is well made. Nice job.

NPR interviewed Mingus' wife in 2002 in a piece called Remembering Charles Mingus. He was a beautiful tragic enigma.
posted by isopraxis at 10:37 AM on December 18, 2007

Beneath The Underdog (his autobiography), is a very strange and compelling book, one of my favorites.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:03 AM on December 18, 2007

Superb post, well worth waiting almost three years for! I have, I think, fifteen Mingus CDs (plus a couple of LPs), so I qualify as a fan, and I deeply appreciate this.

For anyone who wants to get into Mingus, the usually cited career highlights are Pithecanthropus Erectus, Mingus Ah Um, Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, and Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus; you can't go wrong with any of those, but I'd add the 1957 East Coasting, whose version of "Memories of You" is one of the most heartbreaking things I know, the 1974 Changes One and Changes Two, and anything you can find from the 1964 European trip with Johnny Coles, Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan, Jaki Byard, and Dannie Richmond (Dolphy dropped out in mid-tour, prompting the tune "So Long Eric," which is sometimes mistaken for an elegy on his death, which occurred later that year).

Who is the bass player in the Mingus Dynasty version?

creasy boy: The YouTube poster's notes say it's the Hungarian virtuoso Aladár Pege (who died last year).
posted by languagehat at 11:03 AM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

Now *that's* a post. Great job. Thanks.
posted by facetious at 11:09 AM on December 18, 2007

Best of the web, hands down!
posted by Wilder at 11:17 AM on December 18, 2007

Excellent post. I love Mingus. Fantastic.
posted by The World Famous at 11:18 AM on December 18, 2007

Tasty music, interesting background and side notes, tie ins with other tasty music and educational without being preachy. Well done indeed. I'll be plugging in the headphones to listen to some of this as I work today.
posted by afflatus at 11:35 AM on December 18, 2007

First post? Took your damn time about it. And, I might add, it was well worth it. Excellent post.
posted by absalom at 11:44 AM on December 18, 2007

Wow, great post. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 1:05 PM on December 18, 2007

the Hungarian virtuoso Aladár Pege

Damn, I had no idea he was gone. What a player.
posted by Wolof at 1:28 PM on December 18, 2007

Great post, and welcome to the blue. Keep it up.

I had a radio show on Wednesday nights for a few years called Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. Most people who didn't listen thought it was a Christian music show. That kept the punters out. Those who saw the title in program listings and tuned in because of it made for a great little community of jazz afficionados.

(All this was pre-web of course, when the only way of finding other outside music fans was by embedding code in the community radio listings.)
posted by salishsea at 1:51 PM on December 18, 2007

great post. great post.
posted by edtut at 10:29 PM on December 18, 2007

Way to go peacecorn. Well done.

Anecdote: In 1962 and 1963 Charles Mingus, his wife, Susan, and baby daughter, Carolyn, used to live across the hallway of 1160 Fifth Avenue. I think it was apartment 301. His bedroom was across the courtyard from the bedroom of my little brother, sister and myself (aged 8, 5 and 9). At night he would walk around in his boxers, his big round tummy bare with the shade not drawn and then make love to his wife. We didn't know what he was doing and the commotion he made with his amplitude under the bed covers was amusing and mysterious.

In the public hallway outside our apartment doors, all the kids of the four apartments on that floor, about seven of us, spun tops and sat around playing jacks, antique things kids used to do. I used to spin Mr. Mingus' daughter around and around and make her dizzy, unofficially babysit her there in the hallway. As we hung around the musicians who used to come to Charles' apartment came up in the elevator. Googling them, I now know their names: Pepper Adams, Jaki Byard, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Roland Kirk, Jimmy Knepper, John Handy, Jackie McLean, Charles McPherson, Horace Parlan. They'd head to his door and we kids would end up playing in the hallway while listening to the music coming from his apartment, just a few feet from the door. It was amazing music. Once in a while I'd be invited in. Carolyn is now named Keki and is editor in chief of Violet Magazine.
posted by nickyskye at 10:34 PM on December 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

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