Monday, February 28, 2005

Blues & Roots

Charles Mingus: Blues & Roots. Posted by Hello

Black History Month at HurdAudio winds down on a positively righteous note with Roots & Blues from 1959 by Charles Mingus.

I simply cannot imagine this world without the music of Charles Mingus. More specifically, I cannot imagine a world without "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting." The take on this soulful blues number that opens this disc immediately transports me to a wild congregation in the throes of something profoundly real. It's not an experience I associate with churches (particularly the staid, repressed churches I've known). I associate it with live music that crosses into pure transcendence. This disc is a real standout in that this set of recordings conveys the power of an inspired live music experience. The path Mingus takes toward transcendence is possibly the shortest and most consistently traveled to that destination of any artist I've ever heard.

This listening experience is rich with sounds I regard as sonic staples. Like the sound Pepper Adams' baritone sax kicking off "Moanin'." The handclaps and yells of "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting." Those pulsating horn lines on "Tensions." The acoustic bass utterly transformed by Charles Mingus throughout this disc (particularly on "Cryin' Blues"). The lyrical melodic line of "My Jelly Roll Soul." The layering of parts leading into exclamations of "I know what I know" from the "congregation" on "E's Flat, Ah's Flat Too."

With these compositions and under Mingus's leadership this nine-piece band really does become a "congregation." It's not hard to imagine Dannie Richmond overcome by the spirit on the drums or hear Jackie McLean's alto sax solos as a speaking in tongues experience. Blues & Roots holds a strong afterglow of a communal experience that seems lost to the contemporary world. This is clearly a music and an era to be celebrated. These compositions are an incredible example of how to convey a place and time through the instrumentation and vocabulary of jazz.

I simply cannot imagine this world without the music of Charles Mingus. Without it I would have no idea how one could say "Amen!" and really mean it.

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