Random recommendation: The Clown

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mike Broadman, Oct 9, 2002.

  1. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

    Aug 24, 2001
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    Ok, I just feel like singing some praises here. Indulge me if you like.
    I think Charles Mingus is my favorite musician of all time. I'm not even kidding here. Considering all the stuff I listen to, that is a huge statement, but as of this moment, if someone put a gun to my head and demanded one musician who I had to rank at the very top of all time forever, it would be Mingus.
    I'm listening to The Clown for, like, the gazillionth time and I'm shocked at how powerful and moving this music still is.
    Haitian Fight Song is just a monster- Mingus' bass roars in all its glory. Plucking and sliding his way around a clever and passionate musical setting, Mingus unleashes all the talent and musical development he's had into an improvised solo that somehow fits as a part of organised composition. This isn't just regular jazz where the group plays a head, a bunch of solos fly in, theme repeats, the end. No one, except possibly Duke Ellington, could combine improvisation with orchestration like this.
    Reincarnation of A Love Bird is a remarkable tribute to fellow visionary Charlie Parker. It is one of many such tributes from Mingus, who felt that too many musicians ripped off Bird. Snippets of Parker tunes are recognisable in the mele of thematic play, musical reference, and sonic collage, all under an impressionistic umbrella of grand concept.
    The title track is a doozy. Featuring vocal narration of a story about a Clown who grows bitter, it is a frightening parallel to art and jazz. The thing sounds dated and after listening to it a few times I told myself I would just skip this when I listened to the album. However, this has not been the case. For one thing, the instrumental part in the middle features some of the best playing on the album. But even the narration resonates with modern art and music enthusiasts. This can be very powerful if you get over the dated sound of it.
    The Atlantic re-issue features two bonus tracks that serve to extend the musical goodness. Tonight At Noon is a particularly intense workout with the trademark Mingus shouts of exaltation and sliding bass themes. It's one of those tunes I could never have enough versions of (and I have quite a few).
    Oh, yeah, and for those who dig ballads, check out Blue Cee and Passions of a Woman Loved. This ain't just some pretty melodic soloing. They are fully realised compositions that give Gershwin and many classical composers a run for their money.
    If anyone here has been pleased with any of my recommendations in the past, definitely look into Mingus' Atlantic albums, particularly The Clown, Blues & Roots, and Pithecanthrapus Erectus (Oh Yeah might be a little off-putting to a newbie). Just know that this isn't some polite, pretty, white-boy safe jazz music that you put on in the background while doing your homework. It's certainly accessible, but the passion evoked in this music demands an equal emotional investment from the listener.
    Having Ah Um[/] on SACD is a nice start. I would do anything to get albums like The Clown on high-res. While Ah Um is certainly great, I think that Mingus watered the music down a little keeping mainstream audiences in mind because he was recording for Columbia. Don't get me wrong- it's still a masterpiece, but some of those pieces have extended versions with a lot more fire elsewhere that can be much more rewarding.
    Anyway, get this music if you're looking for something to shake up your listening routine.
  2. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

    Jul 14, 2002
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    Good post title. We need more Mingus among us.

    Me, I would like to tip the world about PRELUDES & RHAPSODIES.

    It is an import from Australia that features two 70's Deodato albums on one disk. I already had PRELUDES on CD, but its the kind of slow cooking funky music that deserves to go on longer than 35 minutes and this new cd does the trick nicely by adding Rhapsodies. RHAPSODIES was apparently the follow up album to Deodato's success with "Also Sprach Zarathustra".

    The first time I really heard his Zarathustra was in a rewatch of BEING THERE, where the full 8 minute track accompanies Chauncey Gardner's exile from easy street, after the "old man" died. A real hit on your soul!

    The twofer is on the Raven label, and the only disks I've seen from them went out of print pretty quickly, so any one keen on Deodato's style should check it out.

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