Charles Mingus – The Clown
subtitled: Part 2 of 3, in which Aaron celebrates 10 years of living in his current town, and gets 3 Mingus albums for $6 (and his mind gets blown). MINI SERIES!!!
I’m a jazzhead from way back. I mean, as a kid, sitting there with the headphones on, digging through my grandparents’ swing records… But then flirting with getting stuffed in lockers by the tech hall meatheads waaay back in high school. I mean, when the lugs (all deference, Mr. 1537) were listening to AC/DC and getting into fights in the smoking area, I was talking about chord and key changes in Harry Connick, Jr. songs. I never got stuffed in lockers, but probably only ‘cos I was also on the basketball team. Probably? Sure.
I recently bought this 2CD RM set that came with 3 Mingus records, brand new, for $6. Because why would you not? And here are my thoughts on these records…
This is the first album on the second CD of this set. It’s from 1957, and it’s genius. I was gonna write up each of the four tracks here, but Wiki already did better than I could ever do:
“The following excerpts come from the original liner notes and are statements made by Mingus himself.
On “Haitian Fight Song”, Mingus said “[…] It has a folk spirit, the kind of folk music I’ve always heard anyway.[…] My solo in it it’s a deeply concentrated one. I can’t play it right unless I’m thinking about prejudice and persecution, and how unfair is it. There’s sadness and cries in it, but also determination. And it usually ends with my feeling ‘I told them! I hope somebody heard me!'”.
“Blue Cee” is a standard blues in two keys, C and B♭, “but that’s not noticeable and it ends up in C, basically”, he said and continued “I heard some Basie in it and also some church-like feeling”.
“Reincarnation of a Lovebird” is a composition dedicated to Bird. “I wouldn’t say I set out to write a piece on Bird. […] Suddenly I realize it was Bird. […] In one way, the work isn’t like him. It’s built on long lines and most of his pieces were short lines. But it’s my feeling about Bird. I felt like crying when I wrote it.”
“The Clown” tells the story of a clown “who tried to please people like most jazz musicians do, but whom nobody liked until he was dead. My version of the story ended with his blowing his brains out with the people laughing and finally being pleased because they thought it was part of the act. I liked the way Jean changed the ending; leaves it more up to the listener.”” [source page: Wikipedia]
And with all that out of the way, I am free to talk about how great this whole thing sounds. Oh my goodness, the first three tracks are bluesy, they swing… it’s freakin’ gorgeous. I played them all through repeatedly and now my brain is on fire with it all. Loved it. The final track, The Clown, is definitely a different, odd track. It’s a little creepy (like the original album art!), a meditation on the costs of fame and notoriety. It’s a spoken word piece, which is a neat departure. The band sounds like they’re playing at the circus (of course), and the story is harrowing and dark. But no matter, the playing is, of course, stellar. This was a brilliant record, my goodness.