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Charles Mingus Day

Posted: January 6th, 2004, by Chris S

Yesterday was January 5th and in Washington DC and in New York it was officially “Charles Mingus Day” to mark the anniversary of his death (24 years ago).

Mingus represented something that no longer exists. The world is downsized. People are unemployed because there are more people than jobs. Work decreases because the people in charge cut corners and find new ways to make more money from less people.

The music industry represents this perfectly. It’s why the role of the DJ and the covers band in the modern world is so fucking disgusting. Why hire 50 acts to play in a night when you can hire 1 to play the music of 50 people?

If you don’t know him, Charles Mingus was a composer. He’s best known as a jazz bassist but somehow that doesn’t do justice to the enormous breadth of knowledge and broad ranging sweep of musical styles he employed. Bass might have been his instrument but thats only because he didn’t have enough arms and legs to play the whole big band himself. He watched as jazz became a marginalised music form and eventually he watched as “fusion” took over jazz completely and turned it into what it is today – either a slick, calculated Kenny G sax nightmare or something that is retro to the extreme. It’s been said hip hop is the only modern form of jazz and it’s probably right. And it’s only going to be a matter of time before some fucking executive works out what’s going on and that gets downsized too. In fact maybe it’s already happened.

Mingus fought the downsizing with huge big band efforts and orchestral pieces. He struggled financially until the very end of his life (when ironically he found it easy to get gigs but physically harder to play them) but refused to yield to the times. He was a part of the free jazz movement but scoffed at it’s leading practisioners (i.e. Ornette Coleman) for their lack of formal ability. He believed in hard graft as a musician and he believed in doing it big. Whether that means a huge band line up or eating 6 steaks at a sitting.

So, there you go. Charles Mingus was a big, fat genius. Go and read more about him at MINGUSMINGUSMINGUS.COM a site run by his widow and 4th wife, Sue.

Chris S

Chris lives for the rock and can often be seen stumbling drunkenly on (and off) stages far and wide. Other hobbies include wearing jumpers, arsing about with Photoshop and trying to beat the world record for the number of offensive comments made in any 24 hour period. He has been married twice but his heart really belongs to his guitars. All 436 of them.


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