USA, 1956, post-bop

The Charlie Mingus Jazz WorkshopPithecanthropus Erectus

I’ve been seeking out original liner notes a lot more recently. It’s just so comfortable to dive into the history and behind-the-scenes of an album. Jazz does this best, of course, and the best liner notes are the ones written by the artists themselves. The liner notes for this album are a gem, and though there’s a lot of technical talk within, Mingus is able to help the listener understand what he was trying to do with this workshop: give the players a chance to interpret the music for themselves and bring their own personalities into the studio. Reading the notes and playing them just isn’t enough. And so what he did here was lay down the basic idea on the piano and let the players, for the most part, pick and choose what they wanted to play and how they were going to play it. I’m probably not alone in being fascinated by the title track, a musical conception of the moment man first stood erect. The explosive joy and wonder at the realization of evolution, the swagger that came afterward, the chaos that ensues when the foot slides in due time—and how mighty that fall is! Though Charlie predicted I’d laugh at the replication of real-world sounds with whistles, horns, and percussion on the second track, Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day”, I didn’t even crack a smile. This kind of fearless experimentation at having fun is just up my alley. Fun rarely makes me smile anyway, though I do feel it. Mingus invites you to San Francisco for this track, since he’d never been to London. Hell. I ain’t never been to neither, so I guess I’ll take his and Gershwin’s word for it. Anybody else ever feel like sometimes the best love songs are instrumental jazz tracks? Mood dominates this recording, just as Mingus intended, like a kind of authorial intent, and yet he gave his players the liberty to explore within those boundaries. Liberty, not freedom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s