Sy Johnson

mingusA Primitive such as Charles Mingus had no backlog of tested solutions. He had certain doors he could enter to break through the start of a new piece. He could put his hands down on the keyboard in the key of D-flat, particularly a D-flat major seventh chord, and his hands would begin to shape melodies and harmonies, some borrowed from himself, some from outside himself (Billy Strayhorn’s ‘‘Lush Life,’’ for example), and some new. Check out his ‘‘Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love’’ or ‘‘Sue’s Changes.’’ You can hear ghosts of other melodies, but the totality is pure Mingus.

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2 Responses to Sy Johnson

  1. shinichi says:

    I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus

    by Todd S. Jenkins

    **

    Foreword by Sy Johnson

    A Primitive such as Charles Mingus had no backlog of tested solutions. He had certain doors he could enter to break through the start of a new piece. He could put his hands down on the keyboard in the key of D-flat, particularly a D-flat major seventh chord, and his hands would begin to shape melodies and harmonies, some borrowed from himself, some from outside himself (Billy Strayhorn’s ‘‘Lush Life,’’ for example), and some new. Check out his ‘‘Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love’’ or ‘‘Sue’s Changes.’’ You can hear ghosts of other melodies, but the totality is pure Mingus.

    He loved to set up a bass ostinato, then pile riffs on top—‘‘Haitian Fight Song’’ and ‘‘Boogie Stop Shuffle,’’ for example. The strength of the rhythmic force field he set up still powers these pieces today, whether it be a high school band or the Mingus Big Band. His unmatched energy and spirit is an essential component of his composing. You can feel something of the man by playing his music. I’ve heard members of the Mingus Big Band come off the bandstand and say, ‘‘Mingus is in the room tonight.’’

    Mingus was an impatient man, with no interest as a composer in the classic motivic development techniques, inversion, retrograde, and the like. He had tons of new melodies and new motifs at hand, and to satisfy his need to make longer and more important compositions, he would drop any motif he had grown tired of or had exhausted, and move to another idea, another tempo, another mood. Frequently, there was no attempt to bridge one to the next. They were just jammed together. And further, Mingus expected each soloist to negotiate these landscapes (or, as I felt playing for him, obstacle courses). He gave soloists less help from the bass than one would expect from the composer, making it difficult when e felt the soloist was getting lazy or facile.

    The result was a new kind of extended jazz composition, increasingly influential, and a generation of jazz musicians who never played better than (or as well as) they had with Mingus.

    If Mingus’ reputation had remained where it was at the time of his death, he would have been acknowledged as a great bassist and a powerful bandleader, but his compositions judged too difficult to play, with the exception of the ‘‘hits’’: ‘‘Goodbye Porkpie Hat,’’ ‘‘Better Get Hit in Your Soul,’’ ‘‘Haitian Fight Song,’’ ‘‘Jelly Roll,’’ and half a dozen others.

  2. shinichi says:

    (sk)

    山崎弘一が教えてくれた 「感じる D-flat」 の伝説。

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