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Charles Mingus as a *bassist*

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Jul 10, 2005.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Mingus is discussed plenty as a jazz composer and whatnot, but IMO, there really isn't enough about him as a bass player. I always used to think of his playing as "good" but nothing compared to his compositional ability.

    Since then I've heard a couple cuts from "Money Jungle" (wow) and I own Jazz at Massey Hall. I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of listening to that the first time, it blows my mind. And even if the rest of the record hadn't blown me away, the version of "A Night In Tunisia" would've made the CD entirely. It was the first time I've ever heard the bassline to the song actually played by the bass! I mean, I'd heard Scott LaFaro, Brian Bromberg, NHOP -- I'm not stranger to listening to guys with great DB chops, but this *completely* blew me away. I just spent the last half hour playing that on my new upright, figuring out possible fingerings. I learned how to play it on BG, with all closed notes, but doing it on DB is...entirely different. It's not like it even requires a lot of chops -- I've only been playing DB since February and I'm still adjusting to the much higher tension and action of my new upright. His playing on this record really inspired me -- this is the first thing I've ever transcribed...even if it is a two bar bassline.

    EDIT: Forgot my disclaimer. I'm sure this has been discussed before, but searching for "Mingus" or "Mingus bass player" on here is kind of like searching for "double bass" or "string."
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Mingus was a great bassist. As you mentioned, it often gets overshadowed by his remarkable compositions and the fantastic players he featured on his recordings.

    It seems that "Money Jungle" is not as well known among nonbassists as are some of Mingus' other albums. Many are surprised to find that Mingus recorded with that personnel. I've turned a lot of players onto that album; it's always fun to hear their initial reaction!
  3. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    Yeah man, Mingus had The Sound.
    Big fat sound, amazing projection, you can just tell by listening to the records and watching the videos that he was a virtuoso. That is probably because he was a strong guy, and had great technique, he makes it look easy. I love his sound, it's just so focused.
  4. this thread made me pull MONEY JUNGLE BACK out.

    it just kills!!!
  5. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    money jungle is awesome, i might have to pull that jazz at massey hall back out too.
    i have some videos of mingus playing in europe in '64, i watch those all the time. Mingus was an excellent bassist, and the stuff from that early/mid '64 period is the kind of stuff i can listen to all day over and over, his solos blow my mind.

    my bass teacher told me "if it has mingus on it, then there will be excellent bass playing"
  6. Ashley Long

    Ashley Long

    Jan 3, 2004
    Have any of you guys got the new DVD? His tone is a bit twangy on it but he is using steel strings and is still awesome!!
  7. I have the DVD from Montreaux and it is worth owning. It is cool to see a whole set like that. I don't know if that is the DVD you are mentioning....

    But I've listened to every Mingus recording I have been able to get my hands on over the past 25 years and the opinion that I have come to hold is that Mingus put the composition first, the bass supported the composition, and if the composition required a bass lead he made it count. But there are few if any composotions that I can think of that were vehicles for bass as a centerpiece.

    Money Jungle is a rare exception in the Mingus discography in that it is a more modern recording with Mingus as a "sideman". He does things on that date that he doesn't do when playing with his own bands. Killer stuff, to be sure, but not the kind of thing you hear on most Mingus dates.

    My personal fave is Live at Antibes, and Mingus puts on a clinic of how you can drive from the bass chair. I don't consider that skill any less valid than soloing in the high register or laid back walking. One thing is for sure: When Mingus takes a solo, listen up!
  8. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I hear something new each time I listen to Money Jungle. I particularly like the edgy feeling of the album. I remember reading an interview with Chris Wood where he said Mingus was pissed that Ellington was picking the tunes for the sessions, and how the tension came out in the music. There's a definite edginess to the performances--I've never heard the Duke so raw.
  9. I don't remember where I read it, but the tension was between Mingus and Roach and came close to becoming violent. I couldn't imagine Mingus having a problem with Duke, Duke was Mingus' idol and is presence may have been what kept Mingus from getting physical with Roach. Besides, it was Duke's gig, I doubt either of the other musicians would've expected to have a say in what was played.

    It's interesting to hear how similar Duke and Monk sound.
  11. Right back atcha.

    The DVD I have is the 1975 Live at Montreux where Gerry Mulligan and Benny Bailey sit in on A-Train. You don't get much of this stuff with Mingus... an entire set well recorded and shot. If you know of another DVD of Mingus at Montreux, please give up the source! :hyper:

  12. the one i'm thinking of is not Montreaux then, i've got it on order from the local record shop, man they love me there....that one i'm referring too is on a clip from the "Beneath the Underdog" documentary, but it's definately late 70's, Mingus is quite large.... there's so many great clips on there wish they could just release the concerts, I mean there are so many Mingus fans throughout the globe, they'd make a killing....from what i've read he apparantely still tears open the bass on Montreaux...am I correct ?
  13. reitedasc


    Jun 23, 2005
    That `underdog video is so cool. There is one particular moment that makes me laugh: Charles and his drummer being interviwed by a shy, white reporter about their call-and respond-dialouges.

    Interwiwer: "What are you `saying` to each other when you play those dialouges?"
    Mingus: "F*ck you, F*uck you motherf*cker, but sometimes also I love you deeply"
  14. that scene is great.....Mingus is chompin' on a big fatty too...lots of goodies in that video for sure, wish they could release a definitive DVD with simply Mingus talking and clips of concerts, the absolute best documentary i've ever seen is a 2 hour biography of Bob Marley (VHS) there is no narration whatsoever, Bob's life is narrated by himself through dozens of interviews and intertwined with him bangin' out on the acoustic and then playing infront of hundreds of thousands of people in various places around the world.....take all the Mingus stuff and make something like that....we've all heard his life story over and over again.....give us the goods dammit!!!
  15. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    So I was hanging out today, thinking "You know, I should learn some Mingus." So I found my Mingus: More Than a Play-A-Long book I got ages ago, and started leafing through it, and I'm gonna say this right now -- this stuff is hard. Considering my experience with actually PLAYING jazz has been comprised of fully arranged big band with, more recently, playing 32-bar tunes out of fake/real books in a quintet, this stuff blows me away.
    There's a discussion on the AAJ Forums about a "modern" Fakebook, and someone brought up that a lot of modern jazz is far more complex structurally and harmonically than the showtunes and ballads people were playing in the 30's-60's, and as such, a book of 500 "leadsheets" for these songs simply isn't feasible. There are parts that are orchestrated, parts that are completely free of any structure, etc. etc. -- eg, basically saying that music has evolved a lot from picking up the sheet, doing your respective melody/comp/walk/ride beat and playing the tune.

    In the Mingus: More than a Play-A-Long book, the tunes are as close to "leadsheets" as you can get and are arranged easiest-to-hardest, first to last. While I dig a lot of modern jazz, these cats have nothing on Mingus for structure. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is the only tune in the book that's 1 page, or relatively simple in as much as it's a blues (altered changes, of course) with a pretty playable head (given some good reading skills.) It's right about there that I stop dead in my tracks, though. Almost all of the tunes are in Ab or Db (a lot in Eb too,) different tempo and time signature changes, mind-boggling structures (Fables of Faubus, anyone?) etc. etc.

    Even the melodies of some of the tunes make me do double-takes -- for instance, Reincarnation of a Lovebird (I love this song) is rife with 5 slurred 16th note groupings, all serving as a single gracenote. Clearly it's meant for a sax player to play the head, and I've seen similar things in arrangements of more "concert band" kinda stuff (March to the Scaffold has some pretty similar stuff in our school's arrangement) but this is incredible. Even check out "Self-Portrait in Three Colours." S'not in the fakebook, but that unison/harmonizing melody -- wow!

    PS: Dig that bassline on "Better Get Hit in Yo' Soul." The version on Mingus (x5) is far more energetic and, IMO, much cooler, the bassline on Ah Um is stone-cold clear for anyone who wants to transcribe it. Might try (operative word: "try") that sometime in the next day or two, it's a great line.
  16. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Nice to see that you've been bitten by the Mingus bug. There's no turning back after that... his stuff is so utterly unique, with that kind of ancient/modern vibe. I've listened to "Ah Um" hundreds of times, but it's still so fresh to me each time. I remember when I played with John Handy the first time, and that sound came out..... non- stop grin on my face. I tried to channel Mingus, but one can only do so much ;)
  17. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    The Mingus bug poked me a while back, but this is the first time I've really been "bitten," if you will! I did a project on him for music class -- we had to do a 10 minute biography on a composer of our choice and discuss their major contributions to music. The list of choices had stuff like Strauss, Mozart, Stravinsky, etc., and a few jazz musos like Miles, Ellington, and Coltrane (I asked specifically to do Mingus since he wasn't on the list, otherwise, I would've done Coltrane.) Because of that project, I picked up Mingus/Mingus and Beneath the Underdog (which came from Amazon REALLY late -- I haven't reached the part where he's met Sue yet!) IMO, after reading both of those, Mingus' music just...means more, his playing and his compositions stand out more in my mind. Kinda like when the lightbulb FINALLY goes on.

    Can't wait to get more music biographies...gonna try and get a Monk one next. Monk's stuff is, right now, to me what Mingus's was before I really read about his life. Monk's always really interested me -- intense, amazing compositional skills, but without the sheer technical wizardy of his contemporaries -- but somehow, I still find his piano playing far more interesting than that of, say, Bud Powell or (this is a big step for me!) Oscar Peterson. In fact, just about the only other pianist whose playing thrills me more is Bill Evans.
  18. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    You might want to check out Art Pepper's autobio, entitled "Straight Life". It's pretty harrowing, maybe even lurid, but it's unforgettable as jazz bios go.
    mrefjl likes this.
  19. CB3000

    CB3000 Supporting Member

    check out the the red norvo trio "the savoy sessions" from around 1950.
    it's mingus, tal farlow and red norvo. it's amazing and you can hear him so well since it's only a trio. i too have listened to "ah um" a bizillion times and it's still fresh.

    Mingus is absolutely incredible. I have watched "triumph of the under dog" about ten times and I just can't get enough. His drummer was a mutha too. His right hand is crazy! listen to him swing the living **** out of the upbeat tunes on that ride cymbal! the way they worked together was a sight to behold.

    i am getting a duo together with a pedal steel player (first show is on 8/24) and we are doing "pithecanthropus erectus" "boogie stop shuffle" and "my jelly roll soul" and probably "goodbye pork pie hat" and maybe "self portrait in three colors". those horn parts sound pretty cool on pedal steel!
  20. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I finished reading "Beneath the Underdog" tonight -- that last conversation with Fats is brilliant. I hadn't realized he'd finished it before ever meeting Sue.

    CB3000 -- that's awesome. I may or may not be starting a bebop quartet (alto/guitar/db/drums) and I'd love to play some Mingus in it...once I can wrap my head around some of these tunes.

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