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Joni Mitchell's MINGUS and Jaco's playing on it.

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Blackbird, Apr 15, 2006.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Of all albums with Jaco that I own, this is the one I listen to the least. Even Brian Melvin's Nightfood gets more play.

    In part, it's that I find that acoustic guitar string snapping sound irritating. "God Must Be A Boogieman" honestly does very little for me. It grows on me, though.

    Now, Jaco's all over the place on that record, but I really miss that four-on-the-floor feeling that's so nice to hear when there's a ride cymbal playing four. Joni Mitchell did say "Jaco's so good he needs a bass player". That doesn't sound like a compliment to me, and Joni Mitchell knows music. She has an album called Mingus, fer chrissakes.

    So, in Mingus, did Jaco sacrifice music history to make bass history? I feel that album would be better if the playing were more conventional. How do you feel?
  2. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    I dunno dude, I kinda dig Jaco's vibe on that record. He can sometimes be "all over the place", as you said, but he plays some interesting stuff. The bass/vocal duo thing is a tough beast though. Of course, there's the "band" tracks like "Dry Cleaner" too.

    So I guess to make my point even more wishy-washy; I kinda see your point but I still dig the record, and Hejira too.

    It does bug me when Jaco does random/stupid stuff, especially in ballads. Don't know if you have it, but on "Night Passage" there's a beautiful tune called "Dream Clock". And after playing this gorgeous melodic phrase, and settling into some longish tones, he makes this sound like he's banging on the damn thing. It sounds awful. It isn't cool, it's just obnoxious. "Mingus" isn't quite like that, but there are moments when I think "Now why in the Hell did you just do that? Did you think it would sound cool, or 'out' or something? It just sounds like crap."

    Boy, I got off on a tangent.....

    Anyway, yeah, I like the record but see your point too.:D
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I really love this album. Did you read ever read the liner notes to Mingus or many other Mitchell interviews? She says that she found Jaco a thrill to work with because other bass players are constantly trying to put "white picket fences" on her music -- root-five -- and Jaco didn't do that at all.

    Dry Cleaner From... is easily my favourite track from this album. It's groovy beyond belief and the horn arrangement is definitely kickin'. I dunno man, I just really love this record -- and not just for Jaco/Mitchell, but for the rest of the incredible lineup. For those unfamiliar with this record, the other musicians on this are Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and Emil Richards Wolves.

    Also, short of the Ah Um version, this is my favourite recording of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Just can't be beat -- I always wanted to hear what that would sound like with really different players on it, guys who were doing totally different things than Mingus and his groups...this is a great example of what you can do with an electric bass in jazz. Jaco and Carlos Benevant, IMO, really did great things for the electric bass in relation to playing jazz -- not a jazz fusion of ANY kind (hiphop->Marcus, bluegrass->Vic, etc.) but with actual jazz.* I could never really see a place for the electric bass in jazz until I picked up some of the non-fusiony Jaco stuff and a couple of those Carlos/Corea clips that float around on the internet.

    *Note: Unfortunately, I have not sought out any of Steve Swallow's electric playing -- yet.
  4. bassist15


    Mar 6, 2006
    I know that Joni really loved Jaco's playing. For years she searched for a bass player that woudl give space and sail into the upper register. You can find tons of intervies with her saying so. I have Portrait of Jaco , THe Early Years and she talks on there abotu trying to find someone and someone told her abou JAco so she sent for him. His stuff on "Refuge of the roads" and "Hejira" from the Hejira album are very great.
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I think it's a compliment-
    At this point, Jaco transcended 'bass' and, in keeping with Joni's other thing,...was about 'art' & music.
    Mingus might be better known/respected as a composer...again, it's music, not 'bass', per se.
    See above.
    Also, in the Mingus liner notes, there's a listing of other Top-Flight players that were used but the tracks were not the ones on the album...was it Stanley Clarke
    &/or Eddie Gomez on URB?
  6. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003
    As much as I like Jaco's playing with Weather Report.
    I dig His playing with Joni better.
    Because he plays traditional role of bassplayer, plus goes over the top.
    The way he plays off her voice?
  7. jazzbasta


    Jul 16, 2005
    I really like the production on MINGUS. It has a unique sound among the Joni/Jaco albums.

    Favorite track: A CHAIR IN THE SKY. Definitely not an album many will easily like or be willing to explore, but I wonder why with a cast including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, etc.
  8. I have owned the album since the vinyl days and enjoy it, but it's a collection of moments rather than a cohesive work in many respects, IMO.

    At that point, JP was being used more as a sonic texture and a contrapuntal 'voice' to Mitchell's own, rather than in his 'traditional' instrumental role. Much of his tracking on Mingus shows superior melodicism, but it comes at the expense of a bottom end groove in some of the material.
    I suspect that this was partially by design, and partially due to JP's own predilections...And it adds a lot of 'space' to the recording, which is a pleasing effect.

    IIRC, it was regarded as flawed at the time by critics who found disfavor with the overall impressionistic approach, preferring the somewhat more disciplined and 'radio-friendly' airs of Hejira.

    It is, however, one of the best examples of Jaco's tone on record.
  9. Yvon

    Yvon Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2000
    Montreal, Canada
    Jaco's plaing with Joni Mitchell is my favorite. I like the JM album with Jaco more then his solo album or any WR album.
    Just like Joshua, I guess you can count me in the "it works for me" camp!
  10. bassist15


    Mar 6, 2006
    The really funny thing is JAco had never listened to Joni's music before he played with her. It was pretty much like a fresh start where he could try new tecniques and things. Like with Joni was when he first started to use Artificial harmonics.
  11. I dunno, I'm not a big fan of that album. I think Joni made better records; Jaco played better elsewhere; just about all the other musicians played better elsewhere too; and as an attempt to render Mingus' music, this album was outstripped by just about anything Mingus ever recorded. IMO of course.
  12. Then you need to. Seriously. Check out his work with John Scofield, Gary Burton, and Carla Bley. One of my favorite Swallow records is one under his own name called Home; it's made up of settings of poems by Robert Creeley. Steve Kuhn on piano and Dave Liebman on sax, in particular, kill on this recording.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I agree with all of this - "Dry Cleaner..." is one of Jaco's best ever recorded tracks - the album did have problems and it's not as consistently good as "Hejira" and "Don Juan.." - but considering how little Jaco we have, it's a must for any true fan!! :)
  14. BassSlave


    Mar 2, 2006
    Chicago via Park Forest IL
    Endorsing artist: Sadowsky Basses & Dean Markley Strings
    A fact about Mingus is that he would assess the abilities of the players in his band and then write parts that were either out of their instruments physical range or beyond the musician's technical ability to get the "push" he was looking fro in any given composition. Look at "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines", which I agree was the greatest Jaco bass "part?" THe intro to that was actually a line Mingus had writtem for that song and Jaco played it as written. Mingus would have been proud to hear Jaco playing that bounce to a blues tune. The horns were written by Jaco and bassically taken from his bass line, a thing he normally does in his own compositions. I think he respected Mingus and Joni's expectations without being too self indulgent. I mean, he was Jaco so there will be a little give and take, sometimes. This is also a great tune to transcribe. When I first heard it, I didn't know that was Jaco on bass, but the whole piece was hitting me where it felt good. Joni did good on the entire album.
  15. BassSlave


    Mar 2, 2006
    Chicago via Park Forest IL
    Endorsing artist: Sadowsky Basses & Dean Markley Strings
    Correction: Look at the outro to "Dry Cleaner..." it was actually an intro that Mingus had written for that tune. Jaco played it in unison with the horns and who else could have pulled that off?
  16. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    I don't mind Jaco's playing on that album at all. Joni probably asked him to play that way, they've been recording and playing together for about three years at this point so who knows.
    What really gets me is why the producers wiped John Mclaughlin off the album entirely, along with another musician who I forget. Hearing Mclaughlin with Jaco and Joni on the same album...that would've been good.

    ...IMO of course.:crying:
  17. paulraphael


    Apr 13, 2006
    If you heard me play, you'd stop reading what I write.
    "THe intro to that was actually a line Mingus had writtem for that song and Jaco played it as written."

    that's cool ... I had no idea Mingus wrote that. how did you find out?

    I love Jaco's playing throughout the Mingus album, and wouldn't argue with anyone who insisted the Dry Cleaner from Des Moines was the high point of Western civilization. The album as a whole i don't love, though. It strikes me as Joni's most uneven, and I'd always heard that this was because Mingus died before completing everything he'd planned to do. Which would explain all the things that feel like filler, and the way it doesn't have the shape of a completed thing the way Joni's other albums do.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    That's what I was alluding to about the problems with the album - so they had like a stellar cast of Jazz musicians to play on that album as tribute to Mingus and there was apparently some incredible stuff recorded - but they had forgotten about the fact that some of these people were contracted to other record companies and they would have to be paid ...and the record wasn't that successful ...:(

    From Joni's webite :

    "But is there stuff that didn't make it out that you are holding on to?

    JM: Oh yeah, there are Mingus outtakes. I cut that with four or five different bands, all-star bands, like the cream of the jazz world. But the Mingus album itself was so poorly received that it's archival. I think it would be interesting to people who like music, but the record business which currently doesn't really care about music, doesn't care about a box set. "
  19. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Well, the 25th Year Anniversary was missed...how 'bout a 30th Anniversary 2-disc set in '09?
  20. BassSlave


    Mar 2, 2006
    Chicago via Park Forest IL
    Endorsing artist: Sadowsky Basses & Dean Markley Strings
    I can't recall how I found out. It was either from something written about Mingus or Jaco. I do know that Mingus wrote six of the tunes on that album and Joni put the lyrics on them. Jaco arranged the horns on that track. I'll try to recall where I first discovered this fact as I think it was also the same intro Mingus used on another tune he wrote and played the same lick on upright bass.

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