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Joni Mitchell salutes Mingus with fine album Print-ready version

by Gus Walker
Arizona Republic
July 15, 1979
Original article: PDF

Joni Mitchell, Mingus (Asylum 5E-505)

The album carries the following information: "Charlie Mingus died in Mexico, January 5, 1979, at age 56. He was cremated the next day. That same day 56 sperm whales breached themselves on the Mexican coastline and were removed by fire."

The reviewer knows nothing about the musical relationship between Charlie Mingus and Joni Mitchell. It must have been special though, because shortly before his death he wrote the music to six songs for her to record. She put lyrics to four of them, composed two more, and interspersed with bits of Mingus' recorded conversations they are her tribute to the late bassman.

The production is Miss Mitchell's jazziest to date and in true Minus fashion the all-start accompaniment provides collective improvising rather than distinct melodies. Her backers include John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clark, Phil Woods, Jaco Pastorius, Gerry Mulligan, Jan Hammer and a chorus of wolves.

Miss Mitchell's vocals are icy and piercing throughout most of the album, warming occasionally for the bluesy Sweet Sucker Dance and Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, a tribute to the late Lester young, and bouncing easily through the swinging Dry Cleaner from Des Moines.

Mingus heard her perform every song for the album except God Must be A Boogie Man, which she wrote after reading the first four pages of Charlie's autobiography.

She was already awed by Mingus' talent, and the coincidence of his death and the beached whales moved her deeply. She responded with an album that's really more a tribute because it will bring a sampling of Charlie Mingus to a broader audience.

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Added to Library on July 24, 2021. (290)

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