Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um (1959)

The Angry Man of Jazz turns in, arguably, his best set on Mingus Ah Um. I realize The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady has its many advocates and strengths, but this album is simply the reason jazz should exist. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," a tribute to the deceased Lester Young, is probably the most famous piece from this work, and deservedly so; it brilliantly encapsulates the longing and emotion for a lost friend while simultaneously celebrating him. Well-respected musicians such as Andy Summers, Jeff Beck, and John McLaughlin, to name a few, have done cover versions of it.

But that's not the only thing worth listening to. "Better Git It In Your Soul," the album's opener, is an expressive, semi-loose kind of jam replete with vocal punctuations of hallelujah but with a tempered groove. "Boogie Stop Shuffle" sounds like you've heard it from the theme of some crime detective television show from the 50s, but after thirty seconds, you'll realize it's too good to be condensed as such and will begin to bop with the boogie. "Open Letter To Duke" is a kind of response to Duke Ellington, a huge influence on Mingus and is just superb. Take a listen.

Gives me chills, man! Similarly, "Bird Calls" is in the vein of Mr. Parker, and does not disappoint, either. "GG Train" is excellent as well. Despite its status as a standard, I am not entirely enamored with "Fables Of Faubus," but what can you do? This is a very nuanced, expressive statement from one of the great jazz musicians of our time and overall its individual compositions form a diverse palette for your tastes (just like this blog). A-

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