Graham Reid | | 1 min read
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 rock guitarists Chris Spedding and Peter Frampton on
Monk's Work or give Mack the Knife to Sting. A curve ball - and
always of interest.
This time the instruments (in some
cases) have determined the music. And there is an in-house band
(white-knuckled and stunning needless to say).
Willner was offered a cache of oddball
clang-type instruments made by eccentric composer Harry Partch (Tom
Waits buffs, sit up straight now). So there's a weird, pervading
percussive feel here.
As always, there’s a vibrant
kaleidoscope of musical colours on the spinning wheel as Elvis
Costello (with guitarists Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell) redefines the
title track, Living Colour's Vernon Reid rearranges Work Song as a
percussive Art Ensemble/Afro/free late-Seventies piece or Chuck D
chants down some Mingus words.
Robbie Robertson and Henry Rollins
deliver appropriately spooky and complete-Kerouac readings
respectively, and Diamanda Galas reminds us again on Eclipse (with a
reading by Leonard Cohen) what a really high, piercing voice sounds
Weird Nightmare is another odd,
fascinating Willner collection. And Mingus fans will perhaps feel
this is closer to the grumpy, unconventional musician they love than
Joni Mitchell's no doubt genuine, but light and studied Mingus album
shortly after his death in ’79.