'Meditation For Integration'

'If you want to play, play a black instrument. Learn the bass. '

It was on this advice that Charles Mingus gave up his vocation as a classical cellist to become one of the greatest double bass players of bop.Still, he retained a tremendous amount of bitterness from this decision - some have blamed this for the violent and unpredictable behaviour  that marked his numerous collaborations. While laying claim to the earthy realism of the blues and the spiritual that impregnated all of his work and fed his strong anti racist positions, Mingus remained preoccupied with the erudite structures he encountered while studying Bela Bartok and the romantic repertoire.
Jazz Of Thufeil - Charles Mingus.jpg
Charles Mingus

He kept his aesthetic identity crisis going while he worked with Lennie Tristano and the representatives of the third stream. In the course of the fifties, he went from being solely an instrumentalist (he played the bass) to become, as the head of his Jazz Workshop, one of the most original composers and bandleaders since Duke Ellington.

Mingus was not fully capable of accepting all the requirement of the free jazz. Still, his music proved to be very innovative: he alternated "spontaneous polyphony' with classical counterpoint and - always terribly effectively- relentlessly varied the tempo and the beat, and he solicited the most unheard-of instrumental timbres.

Jazz Of Thufeil - Charles Mingus Eric Dolphy Sextet, 1964,jpg
Charles Mingus Eric Dolphy Sextet, 1964

A formidable agitator, from 1959 on he pulled Eric Dolphy, the saxophone, clarinet and flute player, in his wake. Without ever identifying completely with the extreme solutions of free jazz, Dolphy imposed a discontinuous melodic line, following violent breaks that somehow never escaped from his control.

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Eric Dolphy

Long after Dolphy's death in 1964, Charles Mingus was still mourning this visionary partner in whom he had found the ideal instrumental echo of his concerns as composer and arranger. Mingus' concerns endured, however, into the late sixties.


1 comment:

  1. "he solicited the most unheard-of instrumental timbres"

    True! No other bass player sound as good as Mingus