Charles Mingus: Haitian Fight Song


Haitian Fight Song



The Clown (Atlantic R2 75590)

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Charles Mingus (bass), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Dannie Richmond (drums),

Shafti Hadi (aka Curtis Porter) (alto sax), Wade Legge (piano)


Composed by Charles Mingus


Recorded: New York, March 12, 1957


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Charles Mingus,
by Herb Snitzer

It’s difficult not to think of that Volkswagen commercial as Charles Mingus reels off that familiar loop of bass notes 50 seconds into “Haitian Fight Song,” because the song does indeed feel like a car bearing down on the open road. But it’s much more than that. Mingus plucks alone, thoughtfully, for more than a minute, telling us this is serious business. At 1:04 a tambourine begins to shake, and at 1:10 Dannie Richmond first hits his cymbal and Jimmy Knepper begins blowing into the trombone. By 1:30 the groove is firmly established, and before the 2-minute mark the studio is erupting in celebratory squeals and bashes. And there’s still 10 minutes left in the song! The tempo slows, the tempo speeds up, the tempo slows again and marches and finds its groove once more. Yeah, it’s got great songwriting and solos, but listen closely: “Haitian Fight Song” is also a complete narrative. One might even call it aural history.

Reviewer: Steve Greenlee

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  • 1 nathanmcnathan // Jul 08, 2008 at 02:28 AM
    This is a great article - makes up for the one about how bass solos ruined jazz!
  • 2 rockycat // Feb 01, 2009 at 05:19 PM
    I was wondering, does anyone know if this song actually has Haitian influences in it?
  • 3 jaxthecob // Apr 12, 2009 at 09:26 PM
    This song was about the haitian slave uprising.