Charles Mingus – Blues & Roots

Here’s the album:’s the playlist:



RC: Charles Mingus – Blues & Roots

Mingus is one of my faves, though I tend to veer more towards Blues than Jazz. I would spend a lot of time at the Iron Horse in NoHo whenever Blues musicians go Hey Seth, did I ever tell you about the time I was propositioned by Bo Diddley? … I was in highschool. He was part jerky. May he rest in peace.
Back to Mingus. I’ve heard this album before. I’m thinking it’s not one of his best.

After Listening:
Well I’m pretty sure I’ve gone insane. I’m blaming lack of sleep and frenetic jazz. I’m seeing everything in grayscale right now.

Favorite track/tracks:
Cryin’ Blues – I had to look up to see who was playing the piano because it was amazing. Horace Parlan, you… are… my… hero. Also, I have always been a fan when the people in the band are so floored but what the featured instrument is doing that they can’t help but comment.
Moanin’ – If they ever make a film noir about me becoming a detective, I want this to be my song. And I demand fishnet stockings, Louboutin stilettos and a grey ladies trench that has been hemmed to just slightly above the pin-stripe pencil skirt and tailored Doris top and I AM THINKING ABOUT BECOMING A DETECTIVE YOU GUYS!
My Jelly Roll Soul – I’m very curious if this was an homage to Jelly Roll Morton.

Least favorite track/tracks:
Stop yourself.

Overall (1-5 stars):   5


Charles Mingus – Blues and Roots: 4 stars

Precon: I know my brother likes him. I can’t remember what instrument he plays. Hopefully piano but more likely a horn of some sort.

Favorite Track: E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too. Love the manic pace.
Least Favorite: Nothing I disliked. I’ll go with Moanin’.

Ah, he plays the bass. That seems kind of odd. If you played this for someone who didn’t know anything about it and said, “What instrument does the guy whose record this is play?”, I don’t think many people would say bass. Reading the wiki, it seems he’s supposed to be the second coming of Duke Ellington, in that he’s some kind of master composer, so I guess that makes more sense.
Right away the stereo-ness is killing me. I hear some instruments in my left ear and some in my right. It almost hurts. Why did they do this?
Ok, some of the tracks are more bass centric. Like tracks 2, 4 and 5.
Not much to say on the whole. It was cool, fairly easy listening jazz. The stereo problem I had in the beginning either went away or I got used to it. I lost focus in the middle of the album and kinda forgot I was listening to it. I suppose that can be a good thing. It was short so I had no problem going back for a second listen. I realize I don’t totally understand everything about jazz, I just like what sounds good, and this sounds pretty good. I’m not flipping out, but I would readily come back to it or explore some other Mingus offerings.

Magic the Gathering Card: “Blue Sun’s Zenith”


Charles Mingus Blues & Roots

Preconceived Notions: It’s all pretty much right there in the title isn’t it?  I put together the playlist and glanced at the Wikipedia, so I know that it’s late 1950s.  I guess I’m thinking it would be like something you should hear in a dark, smoky club, with a trio of musicians.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting- is a lot jazzier than I expected from an album with “blues” in the title.  I know this is going to sound like perhaps the least educated, saddest thing anyone has ever said, but it reminded me of this : (you may now enjoy your day)

I feel like there’s just absolutely no way to judge this kind of talent.  It just goes down really easy and smooth, so there’s nothing for me to complain about at all.  This is an album that you could play any time, anywhere, and I feel like you’d still be in awe of the speed and the effortless sound, despite the fact that the hours of sweat and practice that went into it are probably beyond count.  It’s much jazzier, or what I think of as “jazzier” than I had anticipated.  Not as much blues, or, again, what I think of as blues, going on, but what results is something that, if you have internal organs and what you consider a soul, can only make you feel like a better person.  Perhaps I’m using “jazz” here as a substitute for “soul” or an adjective that’s synonymous with “joyful”.  There’s something about this that makes you feel like you should just jump up and say Hallelujah once or twice. If there’s someone who doesn’t like this I’d like to meet them and then clap them over the ears to ensure their deafness because they probably don’t deserve to enjoy music.  I’m pretty glad I waited until later in the day to listen to it though, because I needed the pick me up.  When I was young and impressionable, there was a line in a John Mayer song that always stuck out to me: “but you could distinguish Miles from Coltrane”.  I always wanted to be that girl, but I’m not and therefore, I may not ever be able to simply pick out a Charles Mingus song from a jazz-laden lineup of anonymous artists, but what I’ve heard here, I’m more than happy to have been introduced to and may, once I have some free time and think of it, even explore further.

Overall 5.0

Favorites: E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too- just the perfect upnote to end an album on
Least Favorite-None, they could all be used as a palate cleanser if you’re ears have been suffering boring, generic, or terrible music for too long.


Preconceived Notions:  A curiosity pick of mine in name only really.  I’ve been enthralled by the genius of Mingus ever since I first heard him beating that upright acoustic bass within an inch of its life.  Like most jazz artists I’ve experienced way more of Mingus in a live improv setting than on a record, and while his masterpiece efforts like The Black Saint and Sinner Lady and Mingus Ah Um intrigued me early on enough to listen to on a record…some of Mingus’ other work I never really got around to hearing on a recording.  I picked Blues and Roots for RC because of the few takes I’ve heard and from Mingus’ aesthetic regarding the album – it should be a representation of his more consonant and less experimental efforts.

After Listening: Mingus is truth in advertising here, he’s promising a very blues influenced, swing jazz style record and he delivers.  The true talent of a musician, or a composer is to reinvent the wheel through subtly and have it come out as your own creation after you run it through some of the traditional forms.  We get blues here, we get gospel, soul, and big band swing.  I love the addition of the vocals on this album which are little more than calls and responses – testifying to the intensity of the musical goodness.  But most of all we get Mingus, playing within restraints he creates and excelling – sure the pieces swing, but they swing his way – in moments nearly a pre-cursor funk style.  Mingus is virtuosic on the bass, and his accompanying musicians on this record are if a step down, still amazingly talented.  If I did find minor faults with this effort, they would be in reference to his other compositions- which take more chances and aren’t as repetitive as some of the “pieces of pieces” on this record.  But that’s more of a style choice than a blind spot in his compositional prowess.

Favorite Tracks:  “Moanin’  – The bass work here is just intense, frantic and yet underneath the sax, – nearly mournful at times.  Mingus’ ability to draw out emotional responses often in contrast to the construction (ie you can “hear” the energy in them – but you may often feel “mellow” or “blue”) . The main horn theme is equal parts nasty perfection in execution…we get the sense that the entire piece is wailing, crying out, a mix of emotions it might not even understand…
“Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” – If you’re gonna open an album….open it like this.  We get all of the album’s themes in this work and yet they are blended together seamlessly…that horns at the beginning, over the sliding bass, backed by the shouting calls – you know you’re in for a record that is going to bring the swing.  We get a middle section hand clapping/vocal breakdown that is gospel inspired, right before improv solos that could melt your face off.  If this track doesn’t elicit a response from you…well, you’re dead.
“My Jelly Roll Soul” –  I love this track mainly because it’s either an homage or a parody to Jelly Roll Morton…and I can’t tell which.  It doesn’t matter both motivations would work.  A simple blend of early ragtime jazz and blues, you can tell Mingus just wants to have fun with this one.  So it’s straight lace in general theme, but as it evolves you get some deceptively intricate bass and drums – as if the music can only take so much straight old school –before it must drip out in places to some more modern licks.   Mingus’ later half bass solos which strip the song down to mainly him and drum hits lend themselves to commenting on how he sees himself in light of these older era influences. Mainly he respects them – but he’s still gonna do his thing.

Overall 4.91   I feel almost like Marissa’s oft used line about not wanting to deduct points b/c there’s no way in hell I could personally replicate this album.   It seems even less fair to deduct points when you compare an artist to his other works.   And yet, knowing that Mingus has other stuff out there that pushes more musical boundaries, and is better (albeit slightly) put together than this makes me obligated I think to deduct some percentage of some points on the mythical scale.   But this record, this record was even better than I had hoped….I had hoped it would simply be palatable as the type of “jazz” that this record club seemed to enjoy in the Miles Davis sense.   It surpassed that however, and working within a simple framework managed to showcase Mingus’ talent without the additional leap of experimentation and involved abstraction.  In his long catalogue of works I could easily see this being in the top 4 or 5….it’s just a fantastic record.


Charles Mingus – Blues & Roots

Preconceptions: Although I have never heard him, I get the impression that Mingus is a step deeper into Jazzlandia than Parker or Davis. That could be one step beyond my comfort level.

After Listening: My views on long tracks are well known in this club. You know how some films are way too long while others may have the same running time but you don’t notice because they keep your interest? Blues & Roots is much more Short Cuts than Titanic.

Peak: Tensions, Wednesday, E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too, Wednesday (bonus)
Weak: n/a

Overall: I am not sure if it’s the classic blues structure underneath the wandering jazz bits, or if Mingus chose better sidemen than his contemporaries that I didn’t care for, but this album kept away from pretentious noodling while never straying into dentist office blandness. The way each musician feeds the next is often thrilling and I can hear the influence Mingus probably had on 1960s musicians I love like Tommy McCook & Don Drummond. I am not sure if I’ll like Mingus when he strays from these Roots, but for my needs, this is perfect.

Rating: Perfect 5.0
Pre-listen estimate: 3.0
Season to date: +.92

Extra Credit: Jazz Jamaica – Blue Note Blue Beat Vol. 1

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *