WTM #1093: Mingus Guru

wReck thiS meSS ~ Radio Patapoe 88.3
Amsterdam ~ Ethno-Illogical Psycho-Radiographies

26 April 2010 // 16.30-18.30

“If someone has been escaping reality, I don’t expect him to dig my music.”
Charles Mingus

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.
• Charles Mingus

Two Minutes of Silence > Beautiful Freaks & WTM
Above The Clouds > Gang Starr / Guru vs Inspectah Deck)
Freedom (Mingus) > Dr. John, Bill Frisell et al.
Pork Pie Hat > Jeff Beck
Good Bye Pork Pie Hat > John McLaughlin [My Goals Beyond / Douglas]
Intro Jazzalude 1 > Guru [Jazzmatazz II / Chrysalis]
Lifesaver > Guru [Jazzmatazz II / Chrysalis]
Fable of [George Dubya] Faubus > Normand Guilbeault Ensemble [Mingus Erectus / Ambiances Magnetiques]
Good Bye Pork Pie Hat > JazUkes & Ukulele Noir
Charles Mingus Weird Nightmare 1 > Ray Davies, Charles Mingus et al.
Time is Moving On > Donald Byrd, Guru, Ronny Jordan [Red, Hot & Cool / GRP]
It’s a Muggin’ [Rap] > Joni Mitchell & Charles Mingus [Mingus / Asylum]
Sweet Sucker Dance > Joni Mitchell & Charles Mingus [Mingus / Asylum]
The Rubbers Song > the Pharcyde [Red, Hot & Cool / GRP]
Coin in the Pocket / The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines > Joni Mitchell & Charles Mingus [Mingus / Asylum]
Lucky Rap / Good Bye Pork Pie Hat > Joni Mitchell & Charles Mingus [Mingus / Asylum]
Charles Mingus Weird Nightmare 2 > Ray Davies, Charles Mingus et al.
Oh Lord Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me > Charles Mingus [Oh Yeah / Atlantic]
Fleurette Africaine > Mingus, Ellington, Roach [Money Jungle / Blue Note]
Eat That Chicken > Charles Mingus [Oh Yeah / Atlantic]
Money Jungle > Mingus, Ellington, Roach [Money Jungle / Blue Note]
Code of the Streets > Gang Starr / Guru
Haitian Fight Song > Hungry March Band [Hungry March Band / HMB]
Full Clip > Gang Starr / Guru
Skillz > Gang Starr / Guru
Above The Clouds > Gang Starr / Guru vs Inspectah Deck)

“They’re singing your praises while stealing your phrases.”
• Charles Mingus

Guru died around the time of year that Mingus was born… I’ve always been partial to the non-gangsta side of rap, the hippie rap and the lecture rap of Public Enemy and the goofball rap of the Beastie Boys or the obtuse rimes of Sensation. I like BDP, De La Soul and then when Guru/Gangstar came along it seemed like such a natural and organic development – the fusion of jazz and the more high-minded aspects of hiphop. Guru managed this seamlessly and like Afrika Bambaata, managed to create a kind of cross-generational, cross-genre, cross-cultural kaleidoscope of “prideful” music. And that this somehow leads to Mingus, the irascible one seems not far-fetched because Mingus is big, inscrutable and full of texts that confront the realities that were America – no gloss, no Hollywood, but front-on critique. And even without the Faubus texts we sense this dynamic, uncomfortable music annoyed by prejudice and injustice welling and swelling above the sweet denial type of music that is all about distraction and spiritual embezzlement. I come to slow terms with certain difficult musicians and he is one of them. This was a good show for me. And the Hal Willner documentary with Ray Davies et al. Was interesting although painful to watch that despite all the self-congratulatory historical revisionism, Mingus, like a great novelist, shows all of that to be nothing more than venal self-promotional mind tourism – in other words the past words of Minugus show us that we have not come far in the US or anywhere regarding injustice, race, and enslavement of the common man to the machine of commerce. Capable of sweet, rounded, full-bodied music, like Miles Davis, like Leon Thomas, Mingus managed to fuse aesthetics and personal-political anger to produce dynamic masterworks.

Mingus has been approached by Willlner et al. In Wierd Nightmare and by Joni Mitchell. But he seems troublesome because his work carries so many contradictory vibes – the troubled seas, dark and deep. Pepper Adams did a tribute to Mingus Pepper Adams Plays Charlie Mingus in 1963. “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” an elegy for Lester Young has been covered the most because it is one of his most elegant and lean songs full of warm/tender memories for Young. The first version I heard was in 1976 or so when I was at U of Michigan and Jeff Beck came out with a couple of Jazz guitar records, which still seem to hold up OK. Although now I certainly realize the consternation my boss at the library, a black jazz aficionado and a guy who was busy reading every “scientific” study there was about betting on the horses. He was more than convinced that his days as a librarian were limited and that he was on his way to riches via the track. Well, I don’t know if that ever happened but I liked to believe that this was possible. It was already a world of failing capitalism, where people were already scheming more “dubious” ways to beat the system… He was most upset by the fact that Downbeat polls showed Beck to be one of the most popular Jazz usicians during that period… I also discovered John McLaughlin’s absolutely stunning version back then still listen to it regularly… Eugene chadbourne who has also covered “Creator” by Leon Thomas, did a very loose but apropos version. There are other covers of Mingus by Elvis Costello [now edging toward jazz the way Joe Jackson did in the later 1980s] John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and by Pentangle.
But Hal Willner‘s 1992 tribute album Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus has wildly impressionistic covers of Mingus’s work that seem to take Mingus as a source of inspiration for their own improvs… It included musicians like Chuck D, Keith Richards, Henry Rollins and Dr. John.

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