Oh man, Mingus! There’s no-one like Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is an audio dream. It’s something else. I’ve only flicked through Beneath the Underdog and regret intensely not buying it, I’ll have to find it again. Triumph of the Underdog, I think it’s called, is a documentary about him, and it’s damn good Mike Spence; you might find it on youtube. I never realised so many people liked Mingus. He’s not exactly an overarching influence on my generation.
“Triumph of the Underdog, I think it’s called”
Thanks, I will search for that. Now that this topic has come up I also feel compelled to see out Mingus unused score for Cassavetes original Shadows cut. I wonder if that’s hiding somewhere.
Also, has everyone seen Charles Burnett’s short When it Rains? In the film, a man tries to collect money to help a friend with rent. The various characters he runs across are all patterned around jazz rhythms. It’s really quite excellent.
If you find it, let us know.
Mike – I have seen When It Rains, and it is fascinating. It’s probably one of the most memorable short films I’ve ever seen.
I was trying to pin-point what it is about Mingus that you liked versus other jazz musicians. If you prefer Mingus over Ellington, I’d guess the more church-y/soulful/bluesy elements may be the thing that gives Mingus an edge; or perhaps, it’s the more modern/abstract elements that Mingus has in his work compared to Ellington. Am I warm?
You and others have mentioned Kind of Blue which is a terrific album. There’s also universal love from jazz fans for that album. But have you (or anyone else) given Milestones a listen? It’s sort of the KOB’s alter-ego in the sense that it’s more uptempo and hard-driving, whereas KOB is slow and smouldering. But there is some great solos on this and the rhythm section is grooving really hard. It’s one of my favorites and if you like the hard-swinging stuff, I’d recommend this.
Btw, any fans of Cannonball Adderly out there? He sounds great on this and KOB (I actually think he outplays Coltrane on these albums.) Cannoball never sounded better than when he played with Miles (at least of the stuff I’ve heard of him)—but then again you could say that about a lot of jazz musicians.
I’ve seen When it Rains, too, and I didn’t realize that the various characters were patterned after jazz rhythms. I never cared for that movie—especially since Killer of Sheep was so great. I’d like to hear more about that characterization.
One more thing – I can listen watch jazz drummers all day long. I play drums, but I’ll be damned if I can even come close to a good jazz drummer. They’re just nuts.
I have never listened to Milestones but you have peaked my interest. I actually like Miles Ahead a bit more than Kind of Blue.
So have you listened much to Elvin Jones, particularly when he played with Coltrane? He doesn’t really propel the music forward so much as create a vortex of swirling energy, like the top view of a hurricane. I also like Roy Haynes, a giant that just seems to get lost in the cracks. There’s an album he plays on with Pat Metheny and Dave Holland where he’s really busy, in a good way. Who are some of the jazz drummers you like?
I love Miles Ahead, too. What do you like about it?
Personally, I love the way the brass dominated sound of the band and the way the compositions flow into each other as if they were made to be in that order. Miles sounds great, too. Have you heard other Davis/Gil Evans’ colloborations like Porgy and Bess? I really like that one, too. (I don’t care for Sketches of Spain which is more classical and Third Stream for my tastes.)
Let me know how you like Milestones. It’s just like KOB in the small group approach, definitely looser than his collaborations with Gil Evans, but if you like KOB and hard-swinging jazz, Milestones should be right up your alley.
Jazz, like I said my jazz knowledge is limited. Miles ahead just sounds more complex to my untrained ears. *KOB seems like a collection of songs while MA seems like a suite. I own Porgy and Bess but haven’t listened to it enough to comment.
Also, are you sure you aren’t thinking of My Brother’s Wedding? When it Rains is about 10 minutes long and I don’t think you would miss the jazz correlations.
You’re probably with the Bill Evans’ liner notes in KOB where he talks about how the songs were just sketches that the group improvised on. The fact that the songs on the album are so tuneful is pretty amazing. But it doesn’t have the suite-like quality of MA. (I like suite-like albums, btw.) MA is more complex in the way the music is arranged (e.g. the way the various instruments are used). KOB has a simpler arrangement (the rhythm section is laying down a groove for the soloists) and form (the main theme or “head” followed by solos from various musicians and back to the head). But I wouldn’t call the solos simple. They’re pretty rich and complex and moving (not to say that you were saying that).
As for When it Rains, I’m pretty sure I’m thinking of the same film. (I saw My Brother’s Wedding too, as well as another Burnett short about a horse; it was a TCM special). I believe one of the characters was a musician and that jazz was used in the score, but I didn’t realize the characters were based on various jazz rhythms. I think I might have liked the short more if I noticed that.
I’m a jazz pianist. I tend towards the free/noise end of things these days. Alice Coltrane would be my strongest influence.
“Jammin the Blues” was shot by Hitchcock’s chief DP, Robert Burks.
I prefer Dixieland Jazz, as it and its direct off shoots like Big Band are the only real Jazz. Everything else is Jazz in name only. Not that its isn’t any good, but it was called ‘Bebop’ for a reason.
Miles is a Giant. I’ll take him over Parker any day.
My favorites are Jelly Roll Morton and Django Reinhardt.
Satchmo is brilliant as well.
I’m a huge fan of jazz, especially freeform and avant-garde jazz. There’s always the ‘standards’ (no pun intended): Mingus, Coltrane, Davis, Thelonious Monk (my favourite), Bill Evans, Hancock, Ellington, Brubeck, Coleman, Dexter Gordon, etc., but some other greats that I didn’t see mentioned here would be:
You can’t really go wrong with any of his many albums, but my personal favourites are his solo piano work (completely improvised I might add), in particular Koln Concert (his best-selling album by far), Paris Concert, and Vienna Concert (La Scala isn’t bad either). His trio work with John DeJonette (sp?) and Gary Peacock is unsurpassed (there’s some concert DVDs also available featuring the trio as well as a couple with Jarrett on solo piano). If you’re into Bill Evans, Jarrett is like a second cousin (once removed).
Jarrett has worked with Davis (mostly in his “fusion” period), Hancock, Art Blakey, and Charles Lloyd (check out some of Lloyd’s collaborations with the “next Keith Jarrett”, Brad Mehldau), has recorded Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes, as well as some harpsicord and organ recordings (also interesting is his interpretation of the Goldberg Variations). A word of warning however regarding Jarrett’s live work is that he has an audible “whine” (very out-of-tune) when he really gets into it. Some find it annoying (well, ok, many find it annoying), but it’s akin to Bob Dylan’s caterwaul so take it or leave it (it doesn’t bother me, it’s rather amusing actually).
Probably the most innovative and humble jazz guitarists of all time. Went in and out of “retirement” to paint signs (heh), but periodically resurfaced to show everyone up in a local club or whatnot. Most notably, he collaborated with percussionist Red Norvo (in the Red Norvo trio) which also featured Mingus on bass – if you can find any of these recordings in print, get ‘em. Practically every album he’s released (that I’ve heard, which is, I think, everything he’s recorded) is worth purchasing … Cookin’ on all Burners, Return of Tal Farlow, Interpretations of Tal Farlow, Legendary Tal Farlow, and the Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow are the most readily available I believe.
Virtuoso jazz/gospel/fusion organist often worked with wonderful guitarist, Kenny Burell (good luck finding some of his stuff), as well as Montgomery, Lee Morgan, and Jackie McLean. He really popularized the Hammond B3 organ and hugely influenced a wide range of jazz spin-off styles such as Acid Jazz. Albums: Back at the Chicken Shack, Root Down, Blue Bash, Organ Grinder’s Swing, and The Sermon.
Jazz guitarists are usually overshadowed by the horn players and pianists, perhaps because of the ‘limitations’ of the instrument or the laidback way they are used by performers, which is why I’ve included quite a few guitarists in this post. Other than Farlow, I’d say Montgomery is the next best jazz guitarist. Very modal, blazing solos that he would often build up to single-note lines (you kind of have to hear it to get what I mean), Montgomery really paved the way for modern jazz guitar-playing (see Methany for instance, or my personal favourite George Benson). Albums: Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, Full House, Jimmy and Wes (with Jimmy Smith), Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes.
Jazz guitarist who often leaned more towards “soft funk” than anything else. Unusual in that he mostly performed with only an organist and drummer. I believe he wasn’t very popular until after Blue Note released a plethora of his recordings posthumously. Albums of note: Matador, Green is Beautiful, Feelin’ the Spirit, Sunday Mornin’.
Lead by pianist (and philosopher) Sun Ra, he (with his “Arkestra”) recorded some of the most fundamental examples of freeform jazz. Out of all of the musicians that I’ve listed here, Sun Ra is probably going to be the most challenging for those unfamiliar with him. He’s incredibly eclectic often combining blues, stride, bebop, big band, and classical into strange improvised compositions. Notable albums include: Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Vol. 1 & 2, The Magic City, Supersonic Jazz, Cosmic tones for Mental Therapy, and The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra.
There’s a lot of concert DVDs that have been released featuring Sun Ra lately. I’m not going to go into a run down of all of them, but suffice it to say that they’re all pretty much worth buying.
Also some honorable mentions: Arthur Blythe (Lenox Avenue Breakdown is one of the most intense jazz albums ever released, also features one of the few tuba solos ever recorded in jazz), John Surman (personal friend of mine, dabbles in the clarinet [as intense a clarinetist as you’ll ever hear], blending jazz with elements of classical. One of my favourite albums of his is Coruscating), Brad Mehldau (I’ve seen him several times live and his trio is wonderful – if you never get a chance to see Keith Jarrett, Mehldau is the next best thing. Notable albums: Live in Tokyo [for a direct link to Jarrett, this is Mehldau’s live solo piano album], Art of Trio – all volumes. AND, Jaco Pastorious and Weather Report are excellent contributions to any audiophile’s collection. Oh, and Art Tatum comes to mind as well.
That’s about all I got off the top of my head. There’s hundreds of great jazz musicians out there, inexhaustible really.
The Breathless soundtrack is insanely good. The entire soundtrack is all jazz, as well as alot of other Goddard soundtracks.
Moanin’ by Art Blakey and The Jazz MessengersBlue Rondo à la Turk- Dave BrubeckKoto Song – Dave BrubeckJoy Spring – Clifford BrownFlamingo – Frank RosolinoPennies from Heaven – Sarah VaughnSo What -Ron Carter
SHADOWS by Cassavetes has a great jazz soundtrack. Mingus was gonna do it originally, but not sure why he didn’t.
I got a ton of Miles, but probably my favorite (for now) is the Plugged Nickel 8 cd set from 1965. That quintet was just amazing and could stretch those Miles standards way outta shape for 10-12 minutes. Another great was Bill Evans. The Village Vanguard sets and the Last Waltz just make me wanna cry they’re so good.
I want to suggest three releases for the jazz fan and non-fan alike:
Mose Allison: Mose Allison Sings
A fun vocal jazz album I’ve been enjoying a lot lately. He’s got a simple but effective voice, and the songs are catchy as hell.
Pharaoh Sanders: Karma
The ultimate in religious free-jazz experience (at least, the closest you can come without seeing it live).
John Zorn: The Circle Maker
I have a soft spot for Zorn’s Sephardic-sounding stuff, especially when it has its roots in chamber music as it does here. Haunting, melodious, perfect.
“Pennies from Heaven – Sarah Vaughn”
Sarah Vaughn’s voice and talent was from heaven.
I don’t think I’ve heard any of Alice Coltrane’s stuff. Which album would you recommend I check out?
I like Jarrett as well, although I never quite got into the Koln Concert. Too me, the music seemed too syrupy sweet for some reason, and it didn’t flow so well. (As I recall, he seemed to get stuck in place where he was trying to figure out what to do next.) I much prefer Facing You, which still has sweetness to it, but not too much. Also, the melodies sound a lot stronger. It’s incredible that he was completing improvising these songs. I also enjoy the trio with Peacock and DeJohnette.
I also really love the Red Norvo trio with Farlow and Mingus. I love the interplay between the vibes, guitar and bass.
Since you mention that you know John Surman, do you know if he ever talks about the John McLaughlin album, Extrapolation? I really liked that album. The songs are good and almost connected in a suite like fashion. I’m not a big fan of McLaughlin, but I really like that album.
You really liked those Plugged Nickel sessions, huh? Except for Shorter—who really has some killer solos—I was pretty underwhelmed. Miles doesn’t sound too good on this, imo, and the recording quality is not very good. I had high expectations as this the Penguin jazz guys really love this set. Of this band—which is really terrific—I prefer the studio recordings.
Love Clifford Brown. For a guy who could play that fast, it’s amazing that he could create the kind of melodies with that tone. Unbelievable.
Mose is a guy I never really checked out. Do you like Kurt Elling? (I heard Elling worked/learned from Allison.)
Any Brad Mehldau fans? Anybody who can jazz up “Paranoid Android” and make it work gets my vote.
I’ve only really listened to Miles Davis, I guess he’s a good place to start at.
Mulatu Astatke I had never heard of before I saw Broken Flowers. Jarmusch seems to have a pretty good taste in music.
I’d begin with Alice Coltrane’s 1967-73 period—A Monastic Trio (1967), Huntington Ashram Monastery (1969), Ptah, the El Daoud (1970), Journey in Satchidananda (1970), Universal Consciousness (1972), Reflection on Creation and Space (a Five Year View) (1973, which features some sweet mindf*cks by Pharoah Sanders on alto flute)
Coltrane’s whole approach (on these recordings at least) is channeling, Cecil Taylor-esque talking-in-tongues, glissandos, delta rolls… spiritual. Mid-70s there are recs floating about of her playing live where she is mimicking exact sax polyphonics on electronic keyboards… that shit is hard.
Any fans of Abbey Lincoln? I don’t own any of her stuff but I remember seeing her on an excellent show called Night Music back in the day that was hosted by David Sanborn and thinking that she was something special.
Today is Thelonious Monk’s birthday. For a dose, check out WKCR-FM’s 24-hour broadcast (89.9 in the NYC metro area), going on right now. Rarities and gems from one of the greatest composers of all time, in any genre. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/wkcr/
Matt Spence: I loved “Night Music.” It was eclectic and decidedly non-commercial. Discovered a lot of great music through that show. Not on DVD last I checked, which I do periodically.