Charles Mingus - In a Soulful Mood.
Charles Mingus, also known as "The angry man of Jazz" (simply because of his outbursts of rage at music and musicians that he considered not to be perfect), is a fantastic jazz bassist and composer. He was born in 1922 in Arizona and picked up the Double Bass in high school. He had previously learnt to play the cello and trombone so many of his cello skills were converted to double bass. In his early years he was composing incredibly advanced jazz pieces, some of which to be recorded later on.
Over his career Mingus recorded in excess of 70 records with various musicians passing through his often unconventional bands. He tended to focus on the personality, as well as the ability, of a musician to see how he would fit into the band. He ran a jazz workshop that included around 8 members and shaped musicians into unconventional ways that explored their improvisational talents. Pieces of Mingus' music often had two or three minutes of improvised jamming midway through the track.
His big breakthrough came with the album "Pithecanthropus Erectus" (A name derived from both Greek and Latin meaning Ape-man) in 1956 which had been written with specific musicians in mind. Many consider his real masterpiece to be "Epitaph", a 4000 measure, 2 hour long composition of Jazz.
His Jazz career lasted around 25 years but unfortunately towards the end of his life he struggled with the disease amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, a wastage of musculature. He died at the age of 56 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
In a Soulful Mood opens on the track "Bugs" which is classic Jazz café music... A wonderful walking bass line with soft, fast, cymbal filled drumming, plodding piano and melodic saxophone.
Track two is called "Reincarnation of a Lovebird" and opens with Paul Bley on piano with rolling snare in the background. The piano sets a slow mood for around a minute but then is blown away by a mass introduction of six other musicians. This is obviously the beginning of the reincarnation. This formula is then repeated through the song, a slow part followed by a fast part followed by a slow part again...
Vassarlean is the first really slow track of the album. It makes full use of Eric Dolphy on the Bass clarinet setting the sombre mood and the slow, purposeful steps taken by Mingus on Bass. This song could feature as the soundtrack to a depressed, drunken, falling-up-the-road scene in a fifties movie.
Track four, "Stormy Weather", is the longest track of the album sitting at 13min 25sec and includes a three minute long bass solo that is quite unique in comparison to most bass solos. It is slow and plodding yet perfectly tuneful and enjoyable. The sort of thing that will only really be appreciated by someone who enjoys jazz or double bass. The whole track consists of off-beat attacks of trumpet and alto sax battling throughout the track for number 1 spot.
"Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" is my favourite track on the album. It's a short, happy, pick me up song that gets your foot tapping away. Roy Eldridge's trumpet playing is absolutely fantastic and is set off nicely by Mingus. Jo Jones does a fantastic drum solo mid way through using brushes and sounds brilliant.
Track six, "Body and Soul", sounds how it reads. A soulful introduction of tinkling piano keys and soft alto sax followed by a sprightly, upbeat display of stupidly fast saxophone playing.
"Mysterious Blues" is a clever little piece where Mingus has taken blues musicians and composed a jazz song. It has a distinctly Blues feel to it yet is Jazz through and through. The structure and composition are two completely different things. I really like this track, not only is it clever but it's a fantastic piece of music too. 8 minutes of sheer enjoyment.
The final track, "R&R", opens on a classic bass scale that walks into the opening saxophone of Eric Dolphy (who, unfortunately, died on tour in Berlin in 1964). I like an album that rounds itself off with a similar track to that of the first. This is another classic Jazz café piece. One you could expect to hear when you walk in to see your local live Jazz band, sitting in the corner, chain smoking with a bottle of beer at their feet... Isn't that what R&R is all about!
Every track on the album is recorded to perfection. Each of the musicians is fantastic and the composition is brilliant. It is near impossible to find a flaw in any of the music on this album.
This record includes many, many, other musicians so I'll list some of them here...
Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet)
Charles McPherson (alto sax)
Booker Ervin (tenor sax)
Paul Bley (piano)
Dannie Richmond (drums)
Ted Curson (trumpet)
Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet)
Nico Bunick (piano)
Roy Eldridge (trumpet)
Tommy Flanagan (piano)
Jo Jones (drums)
Jimmy Knepper (trombone)
Released 1995 by Music Collection International
Produced by Candid records
All songs recorded in 1960
You can pick a copy up for around £5.
The cover includes a fascinating read about Mingus in the 60's when this music was being recorded and gives an insight into his reputation, fearsome temper and his musical brilliance. He reminds me of many other musicians who are fantastic at what they do but are also constantly on self-destruct mode. A great example being the legendary Jaco Pastorius, or an example a bit closer to home could be the comedian John Cleese.
1. Bugs (take 3) 8.28
2. Reincarnation of a Love Bird (1st version/take 4) 6.58
3. Vassarlean 6.36
4. Stormy Weather 13.25
5. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (take 4) 3.55
6. Body and Soul (take 2) 10.41
7. Mysterious Blues 8.35
8. R&R (take 1) 11.51
--All in All--
A great introduction to Mingus' work, a must have in any Jazz collection or a fantastic introduction to Jazz. Mingus is one of the musicians who has shaped Jazz today but often isn't replicated due to his unconventional style. Definitely worth buying if you are a fan of Jazz. Also an excellent source of reference for aspiring jazz musicians. COnsidering his standards and views on perfectionism a jazz musician can learn much from Mingus' work.
5 out of 5.
Thanks for reading!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Bugs [Take 3]
2 Reincarnation of a Lovebird [First Version]
4 Stormy Weather
5 Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away) [Take 4]
6 Body and Soul [Take 2]
7 Mysterious Blues
8 R&R [Take 1]