'All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother', by Charles Mingus

As I am leaving for southern France for the next 4 weeks, I wanted to leave you with the best title I have in my 10,000+ library: ‘All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother’, from the 1960 album ‘Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus’.

This recording features Mingus with a quartet, a small ensemble in comparison to many of his other records. The circumstances were unique; this was to be Eric Dolphy and Ted Curson’s last recording with the bassist after playing with him for many months. This personnel crisis, rather than resulting in a stiff and stressed performance, produced one of Mingus’ finest albums.

Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus

"All of us who stay sane, stay inside our own cages all the time”, reflected Charles Mingus after seeking treatment at Bellevue and being locked up. Mingus spent years in analysis and even had his psychotherapist write liner notes for ‘The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady’, discussing Charles’s ‘recurrent themes of loneliness, separateness and tearful depression’. Here, Mingus’s quartet deconstructs a series of Chinese boxes devised by the leader to challenge musicians and listeners alike.

And with that, I’ll leave you for now and hope to see you again next month.

All the best,
Rick (jazzpages

Charles Mingus - Bass
Eric Dolphy - Alto Saxophone
Ted Curson - Trumpet
Dannie Richmond - Drums 

'Fleurette Africaine', by Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach

Today’s track is another tune from one of my musical heroes, Mr Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974), being the fragile, somewhat haunting ballad ‘Fleurette Africaine’.

This fantastic album ‘Money Jungle' was recorded in one day (!), on September 17th, 1962. In that year, Ellington’s period with Columbia Records was at an end and this allowed him to work with musicians on a multitude of labels, which included great sessions with John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins. 

Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach - Money Jungle

Each of the three performers are at the top of their game: Ellington’s composing and musicianship is marvelous as usual, Mingus was only a year away from releasing his historic album ‘The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady' and Roach had just recently released his magnum opus 'We Insist! – Freedom Now Suitean artifact both of jazz and the Civil Rights Movement, which was very big at that time.

The fact that they were referencing something African as beautiful, and equating that with black people, was symbolic. The title ‘Fleurette Africaine' refers to Algeria, that got its independence from France in 1962, and the other African nations who were coming out of the colonial grip. The musicians were very conscious of that, and were using their music to convey a kinship to those people who were struggling for their independence, because people were doing the same thing in the United States at that time. 

Duke Ellington - Piano
Charlie Mingus - Bass
Max Roach - Drums 

Somethin’ in a bag

The following conversation was between Janet Coleman and Charles Mingus, in the book ‘Mingus/Mingus: Two Memoirs

'What did Charlie Parker eat?'
'Eat? Everything. As far as I know.'
'Did he eat a lot?'
'I don’t know. Never seen him eat.'
'You never saw Charlie Parker eat? How come?'
'Never had dinner together.'
'You never did?' I say quite loud, combining real and feigned surprises.
'Lunch or breakfast.'
'I’m surprised to hear that. Do you think anybody ever did?' I stick with it, wagging my hands.
'No one ever talks about it, you know. It’s not part of the legend.'

I am looking at Mingus from the corner of my eye. His head is bent down on his chest. His eyes are focused on his buttons, listening.

'If he was mystical and had so many things that he did,' I conclude, 'he would probably have things that he ate.'

His head comes up. ‘I never even saw him eat a sandwich.’ He takes a deep breath. ‘Max said he saw him eat out of a bag one time.’

'What?'

'Max Roach said he saw him eatin’ out of a bag one time. I don’t know what it was. Somethin’ in a bag.'

Mingus: 1968’, a film by Thomas Reichman 
(a.k.a. ‘Mingus In Greenwich Village’) 

In this documentary, Mingus is being evicted from his apartment at 5 Great Jones Street in New York City following numerous public nuisance complaints after he abandoned music for avant-garde theater photography and using the apartment for teaching (and for not paying the rent, I’ve read). It’s unsettling at times watching him move about the unkempt loft, with a handful of others present, talking quietly about race and hoisting his rifle. It’s less a sense of impending disaster than sheer sadness seeing someone so musically gifted so disturbed in other aspects of life.

Mingus In Greenwich Village

There are excerpts from three sextet performances which offer a striking contradiction to the man in the apartment. It’s hard to muster a great deal of sympathy when the police arrive and he makes a variety of ramblings to a small group of reporters outside. But it’s painful seeing his contrabass in a pile of belongings as officials empty out the apartment. In a very real sense it captures his beauty and ugliness better than any standard documentary is likely to.

I’ve put this video for you all on my youtube channel.

'West Coast Ghost', by Charlie Mingus

After becoming my 200th follower, I asked ohmicorazon what or who he wanted me to write about. His answer was:

"…
I’m so glad to be your lucky 200th follower. If you haven’t already, I’d really like to see a post dedicated to Charles Mingus please. :) …”

I wanted to come up with something more original than ‘Mingus Ah Um’, ‘The Black Saint' or 'Pithecanthropus' (although, of course, masterpieces, but I will talk about them later), so I came up with 'West Coast Ghost', from the album 'East Coasting’. I hope you like it.

Charlie Mingus - East Coasting

This sextet session dates from 1957, when Mingus was first assembling his Jazz Workshop. Mingus had already put together the core of the band that would reach its summit two years later with ‘Mingus Ah Um’, including saxophonist Shafi Hadi, trombonist Jimmy Knepper, and drummer Dannie Richmond, who would be with Mingus’s bands for the next two decades. ‘East Coasting' is notable for the presence of pianist Bill Evans, who briefly worked for Mingus before joining Miles Davis for the landmark album 'Kind Of Blue’.

How that came about can be read in Pettinger’s book ‘Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings’, page 42-43:

"…One night in August he (Evans) came home at about 4 a.m. to find a wire: “Can you make a record date this morning at 10 a.m. with Charlie Mingus?”
For some reason Wade Legge, current pianist in the Mingus group, was not going to be there for the session. Evans made it to the sessions (for Bethlehem Records) and sight-read the parts- as Gil Evans used to say, Bill was a quick study…
On ‘West Coast Ghost’, Evans’s aural imagination again dictated to him that sound quality was as important as material, in this case resulting in an exemplary synthesis: as he played here, and sustained in the pedal, the music tugged at the listener with a plaintive cry…”

WARNING: Listening to this will leave you with this tune in your head for hours days.