Mingus - Mingus Ah Um
(Columbia) 1959 by
No other single jazz record from hard bops heyday, a
genealogical forefather of rockroll to come, could have approached
the startling pronouncement about the looming pop and rockroll
phenomenon as did Charles Mingus Mingus Ah Um.
No other jazz record could have been so precisely prescient
as to the popular focus of song, the single, so
as to have kicked itself off with two gargantuan and forceful
statements of purpose like Better Git it in Your Soul
and Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Had the A
side and B side 45 rpm record been at its utter
peak in popularity, and had these two songs been given the
treatment, they would easily have stood up to any of early
rockrolls proudest moments and dwarfed the moment. If
ever there were such a thing, Mingus Ah Um would be
the jazz record for rockrollers to cut their teeth on.
Mingus was a different sort of cat; he was a rebel amongst
rebellious musicians. He was the most punk amongst all of
his fellow jazz punk pioneers. He was a musician who was thoroughly
lost in the music of his mind. He was a purist who threw purity
out the window (witness the joyously howled oooh yeahs
underneath the driving power of Better Git!).
He was the giant of giants in a land and time filled with
them. Charles Mingus was rockroll music before anyone pretending
to understand such things even had the slightest notion what
rocking and rolling was really all about. And in that, Ah
Um is the most accessible music in a life filled with
So while the punch/counter punch of the opening two tracks
may have come across as the re-defining of jazz as a music
that could be about the endless possibilities of recorded
songcraft, it doesnt take too much more time spent listening
to hear the thumping proof that Mingus wasnt just messing
around with possibilities - he meant it, and Boogie
Stop Shuffle, Open Letter to Duke, Jelly
Roll, and the other four tracks on Ah Um serve as startling
yet gripping proof. Absolutely indispensible.
Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
(Columbia) 1963 by Kurt Hernon
This is where it all comes together for Mingus. The Black
Saint and the Sinner Lady is his finest artistic moment,
and for me is by far his finest and greatest achievement.
Black Saint is the noir-ish explosion of Charles Mingus
soul - a musical Jackson Pollack from a palette that had splashes
of everything that fueled the mans intense passions,
anger, hatred, love, adoration, joy, machismo, sexuality,
energy, and soul.
Done in four tracks or modes Black
Saint plays out as a noir-ish big screen high drama production.
It is filled with more tragedy, more humor, more pathos, more
elation, and more depth than most any motion picture could
ever dream of generating.
When the chaos of track A, Solo Dancer melts away
into the piano led and plot thickening track B
(humorously title Duet Solo Dancers) the impossibility
of not becoming swept up into Mingus wild storytelling
is urgently obvious. The entire movement of music becomes
an edge of your seat affair that is as breathtaking as it
is anticipatory. Where is it all going? What will happen next?
How, where, or when does it all end up?
Answers are sought, but they are never evident. Such is the
indisputable genius of Mingus. His well is the human spirit,
his thirst insatiable - just be glad he found a way to share
his gifts, of which Black Saint is the most precious.
Brubeck: Time Out
(1959) Pianist Brubeck's masterpiece. Melodic, understated
jazz at its finest.
Coltrane: Love Supreme
(1964) Mr. Coltrane was a passionate, religious man. The fury
and love that Coltrane translates with his saxophone is truly
groundbreaking on this release. From the typos in the liner
notes, to the meteoric, blistering runs, to the tempo changes
and to the pulling and stretching of the compositions, this
recording is the summit for Coltrane. He sees God, and he
tries to take you with him. If you think I'm exaggerating
and you have never heard this, have some faith and buy it
Davis: Kind of Blue
(1959) Simple jazz and the base for all subsequent improvisational
jazz recordings. Maybe the most important jazz recording of
all time. As you listen, it's like watching the car chase
scene in The French Connection: you think he is going
to crash and implode on himself, but when your ears think
he is just too far out there, he pulls you in, saving you
from the fatal collision.
Evans: Waltz for Debby & Live at the Village Vanguard
(1961) The ultimate Sunday am recording, which is apropos
where the recording was made on a Sunday p.m. Relaxed, intricate,
powerful and tight. This is the best jazz trio recording of
all time, and Evans was the ultimate jazz pianist.
Monk: Brilliant Corners
(1956) Perfect name for this recording which turns on a dime
throughout the compositions, leaving your ears fresh. An acknowledged
Vaughan: Sarah Vaughan
(1954) Her debut featured the great trumpeter Clifford Brown.
A great example of why she is considered one of the greatest
Washington: For Those In Love
(1955) Another vocalist in the truly great category.
Tormé: Swings Shubert Alley
(1960) This recording shows why Torme' was considered possibly
the greatest jazz singer of all time.
Fitzgerald: The Complete Ella in Berlin:
Mack the Knife
Only one woman deserves the title of best vocalist, and this
recording proves that Ms. Fitzgerald was it.
by Louis Armstrong
Everything starts with Mr. Armstrong. For me, the popular
music timeline goes right from "Suwanee River" by
Stephen Foster to Armstrong. No artist from *any* era is more
important than he is .
Holiday: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia
(1933-1944) 10 CDs chronicling one of the most talented and
troubled artists of all time.
Sinatra: In The Wee Small Hours
You can hear his vocal command. Others had better voices,
but Mr. Sinatra knew how to stay within his range, and when
he did, it was magic.
Sinatra: Songs for Swingin' Lovers
"I've Got You Under My Skin" and other swing classics. If
you remember Sinatra smiling and snapping his fingers, this
is the CD.
Sinatra: Only The Lonely
Sinatra had just divorced Ava Gardner, the love of his life.
The greatest lonely, heart-on-your-sleeve recording ever.
He was really sad during these sessions, and you feel it;
you really feel it.
Sinatra: Sinatra At The Sands
One of the greatest live recordings ever. It is as intense
as James Brown, Live at the Apollo in its own way.