Mingus Ah Um 8½ ( 1959 )
Better Git It In Your Soul / Goobye Pork Pie Hat / Boogie Stop Shuffle / Self Portrait In Three Colours / Open Letter To Duke / Bird Calls / Fables Of Faubus / Pussy Cat Dues / Jelly Roll
A bassist, composer and sometimes pianist. His first album for Columbia records and recorded during a particularly artistically successful period for him. And, you know. The way the album opens you've just got to believe! Beleive. In the distance, underneath the music someone is heard having a great time shouting 'oh yeah!' and possibly dancing around the room. Well, it makes me want to! The music is furious, the solos are furious but also perfect in execution, the bass goes off and holds everything together. 'Better Git It In Your Soul'. 'I Know, yeah I know' goes the congregation in the background. Handclaps. Perfection. 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' is a beautiful composition. A tribute to Saxophonist Lester Young and his favoured form of head-gear. It works with a blues structure around a memorable, beautifully yearning melody.
The album continues with an alternating between uptempo tunes and slower meditations. 'Boogie Stop Shuffle' isn't as astonishing as the opening track but its not far off. Great furiously taken solos that once again don't put a foot wrong as the rhythm section drives the whole thing forwards. 'Self Portrait In Three Colors' has some beautiful melodic fragments before we reach 'Open Letter To Duke', Charles tribute to one of his original inspirations Duke Ellington. It works as another fast paced workout for the soloists and another showcase for the rhythm section. 'Bird Calls' is interesting for its musical representation of bird song with the playful leaping around of the trumpet and saxophones. 'Fables Of Fabus' and 'Pussy Cat Dues' are both extended themes containing many fine moments and the closing 'Jelly Roll' is simply a lot of fun! A dedication to Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton and featuring a nice slapped bass sound and a beautiful piano solo in the middle. Lots of great solos actually. If you were wondering where to go with Jazz after you've bought yourself a couple of Miles Davis records you could do a lot worse than to check this little record out. The sheer quality of the opening two songs isn't maintained throughout but there are many fine moments sprinkled across the records nine pieces and this is a fine, quality album.
Definitely a great record, but just can't get as enthused about it as I used to. Better Get It in Your Soul is great (& shows how great funk can be when it's not over-formulated a la Horace Silver) but I think his overblown version for Impulse is even niftier along with the Antibes recording with Dolphy. There's several other songs here where these versions don't strike me as definitive: Fables of Faubus sounds neutered compared to the Candid version (with lyrics! name me someone who's ridiculous Danny), Jelly Roll is more bluesy on Blues & Roots, Open Letter to Duke was actually recorded as a couple separate songs a few years earlier (a jug band did a great cover of this though). This is definitely the definitive version of Goodbye Porkpie Hat, with Handy's solo. I guess I like Mingus best when he's most excessive, and Ah Um focuses his compositional strengths but lacks the erratic energy he could bring to bear elsewhere.
Robert.MJ@hotmail.co.uk Like "Kind Of Blue", the Mingus album is the jazz album that music lovers will hold dear to their chests. It is utterly flawlesss and despite the fact that it is nearly fifty years of age, few albums before or since have matched it.Beg,steal or borrow, this album is a true classic .