Wednesday, February 18, 2009


's far as I'm concerned the jury's still out w/regards to what my deep-down testifyin' opinion of this famed avant-bassist will ultimately be. I mean uh yeah, I can't deny the talent and the heavy-duty powerful emotion the man put into his music and more than a few albums that are pretty much mandatory must-gets for those of you who are swayed by the ideals of postwar jazz, but hearin' things about the guy's ability to milk the unbridled white-guilt tearjerking outta his mostly upclass college student listenership is one that I must say ranks with the worst examples of just how low some of these jazzmen-of-color will go in order to manipulate their listenership, who by buying into the venom and angst of their heroes are attempting to assuage any vestiges of past wrongdoings either real or imagined from their sorry lives. Sheesh, from what I've heard about BENEATH THE UNDERDOG, Mingus knew how to play overwrought white people better than his own bass pretty much in the same way you used to see unrepentant liberals like Bill Moyers and Phil Donahue interview seemingly likable and intelligent En Why See street kids who really knew how to bend these guys (without these supposedly intelligent commentators even realizing it) with their charm and youthful idealism, right before going out to commit even more heinous crimes always to the surprise of these esteemed commentators.

Since I never actually read BENEATH THE UNDERDOG nor have I seen the 1964 documentary I shant comment any further, but I will blab on about this relatively easy to snatch up double disc collection of the Mingus sextet caught live at Cornell University March 18, '64 with the great Eric Dolphy back in the fold proceeding to propel the band straight outta their fifties small-jazz aggro roots into the free-play sixties with all the ease in the world. Sound quality is kinda so-so (buried vocals and between-song patter) and the performance ain't always that hot ("Fables of Faubus" sounded better in the Candix context) but for the early avant garde jazz style that at that time seemed to be getting overrun by the hotter new thing of Coleman and Ayler this can't be beat at any price. With the band swinging from Ellington to Dolphy's free play, the mood is strictly pre-revolution here and it does quite suit me especially in its early-sixties adventuresome way. Fave track's "Meditations" (not the Coltrane classic) which starts off disque #2, a kinda lively pseudo-classical "Third Stream"-ish romp that thankfully doesn't stoop to any MJQ appeals to snobbism in the listener. And the best thing about this offering is you don't have to be a guilt-riddled white liberal to like it, and frankly I don't think it would help one bit to be one either no matter how many sit ins or protests the students of Cornell (and elsewhere) attended during that campus-charged year of 1964!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm sure Mingus has his assured place in the hallowed halls and all, but coming from a bass appreesh place where I'm coming from which is "working backwards from Henry Grimes", it just doesn't grab me the same way. I know it's apples and oranges, and I admit I'm trying to shove Henry Grimes out into the open a little more (and also mebee write some hugely ungrammatical run-on sentences...), but Mingus seems a little old-fashioned to these ears.

Admittedly I'm coming from the angle like how the sex has to be freakier/drugs heavier/music weirder in order to provide the proper cosmic jolt, but it's really hard to appreciate the linearity of "old-school jazz" once yer ears have been scorched by ESP-Disc style freakouts.

Free jazz has ruined "jazz" for me. Maybe that's my point, more so than denigrating a much-loved icon.