Charles Mingus – Blues & Roots

mingus

There are only a handful of times in a person’s life when they get to be the absolute badass. I don’t mean the person that opened the pickle jar. Naw. Fuck that. This is bigger than that. I mean those moments where everyone in the room has the sudden desire to shake your hand, tell you a story about something they went through, or someone they met, that reminds them of you or this moment (but the story doesn’t actually relate at all), and people involuntarily find themselves gravitating towards you to better understand how such a creature came into being. They want, naw, they need to hear your origin story. Your grand genesis. At moments like this, you could simply look towards the general direction of a bottle and someone will pour you a drink, your jokes become a thousand times funnier because the tension you bring is all that’s required for a good punch line, and you could get laid with a single wink in the right direction. Without any of the lighting, money, crew, equipment, designer clothes, drugs, or practice, you’re a goddamn rock star/actor/genius/celestial sex god. This album gave me one of these moments.

It was during that time in your life where there seems to be an inordinate number of parties to attend. Whose party was I at, why was I there, or who was with me when this occurred, I have no fucking clue. What I can tell you is that I entered a very warm and crowded room at the exact moment two self proclaimed musical geniuses were in the middle of a heated debate over jazz. No shit. This was the fucking set up. And yes, even before you ask, I do wish this situation would occur more often. And, also yes, those two were probably knee-deep in some thick Colombian cocaine. Their debate was about how jazz-jazz wasn’t relatable to the youth/modern society anymore. What’s this jazz-jazz shit they were talking about? Well, one of the sanctimonious douche nozzles decided that anything past 1960 was no longer considered “jazz-jazz” but “modern jazz”. He, most likely, defined the terms this way because he realized he would eventually lose this argument. After hearing my fair share of their barking, I went over to the stereo to silently judge whoever lived there by scrolling through their music collection. When I saw this album, I chose the song “Moaning” and, for some reason, pressed play. What I didn’t know was that the speakers were already set to their full-party volume.

If you already love Mingus as much as I do, then you know how truly hilarious this scene is.

“Moaning” starts with the baritone saxophone line that could get the hardest and strictest of nun asses to shake like it’s a plate of half-melted jello riding a rickety shockless model-T. The line speaks to something deep within the human being that science hasn’t quite discovered yet. At some point in the future, we will probably find that if you square root this shit you end up with the equation for warp speed and the chemical composition behind inner peace. There’s a point in this song where Mingus screams, “Well I know!” (1:28) that triggers something raw within me. When I’m not listening to it, I have no idea what the fuck Mingus “knows” or why I would care. But as I’m listening to it, I know exactly what that motherfucker is talking about. This song is structured anarchy. It’s free, wild, yet controlled. Its build is bigger than Antoni Gaudí, Frank Lloyd Wright, and K-fucking-2. It’s one of the greatest songs ever made. Its power is limitless.

Needless to say, I received a lot more acclaim at that party than I deserved. What looked like some random meandering into a party and wordlessly winning a highly spirited debate, was actually some moron that didn’t know the shit was too loud and couldn’t find the fucking knob. The bite behind the punch was Mingus. If his shit wasn’t tight, it wouldn’t have worked. This album alone has the power to convert the most cynical of anti-jazzers to the dark side. When Sartre, the grandest of philosophical morosers, talks about a certain jazz that can cure, or ignite, existential malaise, this motherfucker often comes to mind. It has a distant, pure, and controlled fire that can only come wrapped in the genre of jazz. If you ever want to be the badass at a party, put this shit on. In my experience, it can silence crowds, stop arguments, and offer you one of those handful of moments where you rule the night like the Greek goddess Nyx on her glam rock debut. It’s a goddamn masterpiece.


 

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