charles mingus

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Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch (1964)

Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch (1964)

The sudden and unexpected death of saxophonist/flute player and clarinettist Eric Dolphy just months after these exceptional studio sessions for the Blue Note label robbed jazz of one of its most distinctive voices, and left many questions hanging about where the 36-year old might have taken his music. Already he had worked with Charles...

Jackie McLean: Right Now! (1965)

Jackie McLean: Right Now! (1965)

The Reid Miles-designed cover of this album by altoist McLean is a Blue Note classic. The hammered-out typewriter font blown up large and the thump of the exclamation point hinted at - and the intense opener Eco confirmed - the tough music within. Altoist McLean, born in New York in 1932, studied with his neighbour Bud Powell and played with...

DAVE BRUBECK (1920-2012): Standing the test of Time

DAVE BRUBECK (1920-2012): Standing the test of Time

Time. It marched on. Dave Brubeck lived to a fine old age in jazz where unemployment, insolvency and lifestyle usually takes its toll much earlier. In his obituaries Brubeck could reasonably expect tributes for popularising jazz with American college students in the Fifties, appearing on the cover to Time magazine in 1954, releasing one of the...

AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

Nobody talks about Amiri Baraka these days, despite the fact he’s still alive*, still writing and still irritating the hell out of people. That’s called doing God’s work. The last time he was sighted in the public domain was in that Warren Beatty movie, Bulworth. He had a bit-part playing a street bum-cum-guardian angel to...

JIMI HENDRIX AND ALAN DOUGLAS: The fireball and the keeper of the flame

JIMI HENDRIX AND ALAN DOUGLAS: The fireball and the keeper of the flame

The name Alan Douglas raises mixed feelings among Jimi Hendrix fans. By a series of canny and right-place, right-time manoeuvres after the death of Hendrix in 1970, Douglas -- a former jazz producer, and a friend and adviser to Hendrix in his final years -- ended up as the curator of the Hendrix legacy. While others, notably the many...

Charles Mingus: Thirteen Pictures, The Charles Mingus Anthology (1993)

Charles Mingus: Thirteen Pictures, The Charles Mingus Anthology (1993)

Like Duke Ellington -- with whom he is most frequently (and fairly) compared for the vastness, depth and diversity of his recordings -- no single album could stand as emblematic of Charles Mingus, although many are certainly essential. In fact after The Wire magazine offered its primer on Mingus albums in early 2004 (14 albums under his...

LESTER BOWIE REMEMBERED (1941-1999): Does humour belong in music?

LESTER BOWIE REMEMBERED (1941-1999): Does humour belong in music?

Humour hasn’t had much place in jazz. Certainly Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong entertained by mugging things up. But mostly jazz is poker-faced music played to furrowed brow audiences which think it’s somehow more morally uplifting than other music. A couple of years ago Denis Dutton, the philosopher/academic from...

HORACE SILVER, JAZZ PIANO LEGEND: Fifty years of Peace, in our time

HORACE SILVER, JAZZ PIANO LEGEND: Fifty years of Peace, in our time

When I was at school, my dad wasn’t concerned about what marks I got. All he wanted to know was, ‘Where were you in the class?’ He figured while 82 per cent sounds impressive, if everyone else got in the 90s then you were in the bottom. That isn’t quite so impressive. The only thing worth knowing was the comparison....

PHAROAH SANDERS INTERVIEWED (2004): Creative man without a masterplan

PHAROAH SANDERS INTERVIEWED (2004): Creative man without a masterplan

Pharoah Sanders proves to be not the easiest of interview subjects. But if he has a poor phone manner and doesn't sound interested in talking, you tend to forgive him because he's a jazz genius. Or at least an occasional genius, although one who has consistently alienated critics. Maybe because he has rushed in and is about to rush out we...

JOHN COLTRANE AND MILES DAVIS: Genius at work and playing, 1955-61

JOHN COLTRANE AND MILES DAVIS: Genius at work and playing, 1955-61

For two people about to write themselves into music history, their credentials were not promising. Only a few years previously, the trumpeter was so hooked on heroin that he was almost unemployable and would often fail to show for concerts. The other was a little-known saxophonist whose career was sound but unspectacular. He had played...

CHET BAKER REMEMBERED: The long journey into night

CHET BAKER REMEMBERED: The long journey into night

Trumpeter Chet Baker's death in 1988 was tragic -- but, at 59, he was lucky to have lived so long. A brilliant stylist whose work in Gerry Mulligan's piano-less quartet in the early Fifties -- and whose recordings in Paris shortly afterwards -- are worth serious investigation, Baker modelled himself on Miles Davis at his most ineffably cool....

BRANFORD MARSALIS INTERVIEWED (2009): Putting the past to bed

BRANFORD MARSALIS INTERVIEWED (2009): Putting the past to bed

Branford Marsalis, who played in bands with Sting and helmed his own Buckshot LeFonque -- which had a stab at the hip-hop-to-bebop territory -- is these days dismissive of his brief skirmishes with popular music. He’s back playing jazz and much prefers it. The audiences may be smaller but he gets to play exactly what he wants, can look...

THELONIOUS MONK; THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL by ROBIN D.G. KELLEY

THELONIOUS MONK; THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL by ROBIN D.G. KELLEY

In late November 1963, a 5000 word profile of Thelonious Monk was scheduled to appear in Time magazine. Monk was to be the cover. An interviewer and jazz aficionado Barry Farrell from Time had spent months with Monk watching him at work and relaxing at home with his family, and the Russian painter Boris Chaliapin had been commissioned to...

Jaga Jazzist: One Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune/Border)

Jaga Jazzist: One Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune/Border)

In which our Norwegian big band of jazz-and-elsewhere players borrow heftily from all comers (epic soundtracks and European art films, minimalists, Afrobeat, jazz-rock) and deliver something of a quilt of jazzy colours. They say it is "Zappa-esque, more humorous prog-rock" but in its scale and changing moods, much of it...

Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (Red Eye/Southbound)

Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (Red Eye/Southbound)

Bassist Dave Holland has always had a much deserved reputation for his big band line-ups for which he writes interesting charts and gets in some of the finest (and often up-coming) jazz players. Here he has the benefit of some established names: sax and flute player Antonio Hart, trombone player Robin Eubanks and vibes player Steve Nelson...

FREEDOM, RHYTHM AND SOUND: Jazz with a raised fist and a copy of Malcolm X speeches in the other hand

FREEDOM, RHYTHM AND SOUND: Jazz with a raised fist and a copy of Malcolm X speeches in the other hand

Few people today -- musicians included -- consider rock or jazz as “political”, even in the broadest sense of the word. Yet back in the late 60s and through the 70s large areas of both certainly were. Less than a year after that remarkable year 1968 (student demonstrations, assassinations, political oppression and...

RAY BROWN, SUPERBASS (1926-2002): A talent beyond words

RAY BROWN, SUPERBASS (1926-2002): A talent beyond words

Ray Brown great practical joker. Once, in Japan, Brown --- bassist in pianist Oscar Peterson’s famous drummerless group, the most highly paid trio in the jazz world in the 1950s -- went to a pachinko hall, one of those gambling parlours where you are blinded by blazing neon and deafened by the incessant roll of small steel balls. He...

Scott LaFaro: Pieces of Jade (Resonance)

Scott LaFaro: Pieces of Jade (Resonance)

The great jazz bassist Scott LaFaro didn't have a long time -- he was killed in a car accident in 1961 at age 25 -- but his impact on acoustic jazz was, and remains, significant for his work in the classic Fifties trio with pianist Bill Evans and drummer Paul Motian. His gentle, often high, singing tone allowed for great emotional dexterity...

QUINCY JONES INTERVIEWED (1990): The boss back on the block

QUINCY JONES INTERVIEWED (1990): The boss back on the block

Quincy Jones does quite put it this way, but he knows that with great power comes great responsibility. And Jones has great power because of a financial empire founded on an extra ordinary career in music which spans from be-bop to hip-hop. This is the man who hung out with jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in the...

Zirkus: Sirius Music (iiii)

Zirkus: Sirius Music (iiii)

Wellington certainly throws up some interesting, if not always convincing, improvising artists who edge towards the free jazz idiom but rather hit a default position of swing-cum-Dixie with some slightly self-conscious moments. This one -- recorded live in Happy and on the iiii label -- shows that the spirit of the old Braille label and...

CHARLES MINGUS: Genius captured in the late Fifties

CHARLES MINGUS: Genius captured in the late Fifties

Charles Mingus was one of jazz's greatest geniuses and remains among the most misunderstood. Irascible and demanding, his personality and roguish reputation often tower larger than his inspired music. The respectful Columbia Legacy reissue in '99 of two of his late Fifties albums – Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty – restored...

Various Artists: Weird Nightmare; Meditations on Mingus (Sony)

Various Artists: Weird Nightmare; Meditations on Mingus (Sony)

Arranger Hal Willner has put together some exciting, fascinating, irritating collaborations in the past on his tributes to Walt Disney music, Thelonious Monk, Kurt Weill and Fellini soundtrack man Nino Rota. But this one for jazz composer/bassist Charles Mingus is a bit different. Previously Willner would put together people such as...

CHARLES MINGUS, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS IN 1956: Man standing up tall

CHARLES MINGUS, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS IN 1956: Man standing up tall

By the time Charles Mingus died in 1979 at 56, most of the obituaries had already been prepared. Mingus, suffering the increasingly debilitating Lou Gehrig's disease, hadn't been able to walk or play bass in a year, and things just got worse. When told of his passing, the bassist Charlie Haden said, "Charles Mingus was one of those rare...

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Head Up)

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Head Up)

Because we could safely assume few aggrieved Justin Bieber followers will ever come to Elsewhere, it is safe to write about this hitherto little-known jazz singer-composer-bassist who won the Grammy for Best New Artist over the glorious child who has been the sensation of the Twitter Generation. At first blush you can forgive their anger...

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX: We're New Here (XL)

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX: We're New Here (XL)

Although much hailed -- perhaps because no one expected to hear from him again -- last year's I'm New Here by American poet Gil Scott-Heron did seem a little under-developed: pieces faded out, other bits were just snippets of conversations and so on. That didn't deny its visceral power -- made more so given his recently troubled life -- but...

TAL FARLOW (1921- 1998): Fading, like notes in the breeze

TAL FARLOW (1921- 1998): Fading, like notes in the breeze

It is a very curious thing that as pop and rock music -- which never used to argue for longevity -- are constantly excavating their pasts and delivering collections of their most minor or ephemeral talents, that jazz --- which Leonard Feather famously called "the classical music of the 20th century" -- is letting many of finest...

TROMBONE SHORTY INTERVIEWED (2011): Born to blow

TROMBONE SHORTY INTERVIEWED (2011): Born to blow

Troy Andrews – better known as Trombone Shorty – is one of the rising stars of the New Orleans jazz scene. But he had a head start, he was playing trombone in local brass bands when he was six. He attended the same arts college as Wynton and Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jnr, got out and played with rock bands (Lenny...

Trombone Shorty: Backatown (Verve Forecast)

Trombone Shorty: Backatown (Verve Forecast)

This hot young trombonist, trumpeter and singer from New Orleans -- who plays the National Jazz Festival in Tauranga at Easter, and is interviewed here -- brings more than just the local funk and groove to his style. There is a gritty guitar part all over the urgent opener Hurricane Season here (and on the political/socially responsible...

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