This is an mp3 blog attempting to document the gross amount of music I listen to. About once a day, I'll post something I like. If you're a copyright holder on anything I host, get in touch, and we'll settle things in a steel cage instead of a courtroom.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The tempestuous life of Charles Mingus - or - you just got knocked the fuck out!

I think what I love most about music is the canonization of the asshole as an iconic archetype. In what other field would a dick like Axl Rose prove to be a more compelling, charismatic, and just plain interesting figure than a goody two-shoes like Bono? The jazz canon might be filled with nice guys like Gerry Mulligan, but it's the Charles Minguses that make for the snake-like mezmerization.

And what a raging asshole he was, too. When he wasn't depressed and ballooning in weight, he had frenzied creative periods where he would write and record at a furious pace. In between, he would stop performances to berate audience members who would not shut up (saying, memorably, "Isaac Stern doesn't have to put up with this shit"), throw bandmembers out in the middle of performances (if not outright assault them), destroy expensive instruments, and he once punched a trombonist so hard in the face that the dude lost use of his upper octave range.

Of course, this is America, so all is forgiven if someone is artistically talented (or at least famous). Of course, calling Mingus "talented" is an understatement bordering on criminal. Dude might be the single greatest bassist of the recording age, not to mention one of the best composers, to boot, writing music that often veered between conventional hard bop and wild free jazz in unpredictable, thrilling ways. He often wrote with his bandmembers' strengths in mind, leading to entrancing, mind blowing recordings and live performances.

Even in the face of all this, though, two things will always be tantamount in my mind when I think of Mingus: his bass tone, which a better writer than I described as the sound of a telephone post wire being thumped against a redwood, and probably my favorite ever quote about this arts, one that I try to apply to all my creative endeavors: "Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple."

Rest well, you talented douchebag.

Haitian Fight Song:

Tonight at Noon:


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