Tuesday, April 16, 2013


When I first heard of the Mingus album I had no desire to run out and get it, since the description made it sound like it was more of a Charles Mingus album - someone I had never heard of - than a Joni Mitchell album.

And now that I have a copy in the Mitchell box set given to me by Rev. Bookburn, and can finally listen to Mingus, I can see my impression was correct - it is more of a Charles Mingus than a Joni Mitchell album. There are exactly two songs on this album that have words and music by Mitchell - all the rest are words by Mitchell and music by Mingus.

I'm not an especially big fan of Mingus. His music is from the free jazz period of endless improvisation, which just wears me down. His Pithecanthropus Erectus is a case in point. In addition to the amusing, punning title (erectus meaning upright - Mingus played the upright bass) it starts out sounding great - and then at minute 1:32 they fuck it all up with show-offy improvisation-sounding squawks and random tempos. And it just hurts my ears. Now I'm not necessarily against un-harmonious sounds - the guitar solo in the Pixies Gigantic is pretty dissonant, but the rhythm track never wavers, which keeps everything flowing. If everything becomes dissonant at the same time then you have noise. And that's a big reason why hardly anybody except hard-core free jazz aficionados listen to Charles Mingus any more.

So this is not my favorite Joni album.