Charles Mingus: Original Faubus Fables

In 1957, as a defiant white mob at Little Rock's Central High School chanted "Two, four, six, eight; we don't want to integrate," Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus marshaled the state's National Guard to defend segregation. In response, President Eisenhower dispatched the U.S. Army to enforce court-ordered integration. Ike won. In 1959, Charles Mingus recorded "Fables of Faubus" for Columbia, which forbade his verbal mockery of the racist governor. In 1960, Candid removed the muzzle, and Mingus dedicated an uncensored "Original Faubus Fables" to "the first or second or third all-American heel." Mingus won. Harrowing, hilarious and historic, this is protest jazz at its finest.

July 02, 2008 · 0 comments


Charles Mingus: Remember Rockefeller at Attica

The sentiment evoked in the title of this work is far removed from the vibe of the music. Mingus stated that the moniker was attached later and the original title was "Just For Laughs, Saps" The piece is unique in the unconventional use of a 51-measure form with the final bar of each chorus to be played only by the piano. Throughout the work Mingus sprinkles his usual rhythmic variation and the ensemble rushes in with the enthusiasm one expects from the master's aggregations. Great solos from Adams, Pullen and the composer take us to a final reading of the head and that marvelous lone piano chord to conclude!

November 23, 2007 · 0 comments


Nina Simone: Mississippi Goddam

"All I want is equality for my sister, my brother, my people and me," sings Nina Simone, forcefully stating her agenda. Cursing Mississippi is just a start. "This whole country is full of lies," she snaps. "You all gonna die and die like flies." Staged as vaudevillian parody, "Mississippi Goddamn" suitably ridicules its subject and clearly delights an audience. But measured by contemporaneous standards, it falls short. Four months earlier, 22-year-old folksinger Bob Dylan crystallized early-'60s social protest with his unflinchingly powerful The Times They Are A-Changin'. Inadvertently, Simone's two-beat burlesque shows how far behind the curve jazz had fallen.

November 21, 2007 · 0 comments


Charles Mingus: Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb On Me

The threat of nuclear annihilation hung over the Space Age like a millennial migraine the morning after 100 consecutive New Year's Eves. ICBMs and B-52s vied for the honor of carrying death and destruction to our enemies in megaton yields. Armageddon loomed a button-push away. Into this doomsday scenario charged jazz's most intrepid activist. Having ridiculed the all-American heel segregationist Gov. Faubus, Mingus now took on nuclear brinkmen Kennedy and Khrushchev. No ducking and covering for Mingus. His slow, moaning blues exhorts, "Don't let 'em drop it. Stop it. Bebop it!" We're still here, so it must've worked.

November 16, 2007 · 0 comments


Oscar Brown, Jr.: But I Was Cool

His recitative anticipated rap by a decade, but Oscar Brown Jr. was a far more serious artist than the gold-digging, foulmouthed rappers. His songs were erudite minidramas (or, as here, minicomedies), passionately informed by history's injustices to African Americans. What saved them from polemics was his sense of humanity. In writing about the plight of blacks in America, Brown powerfully evoked, as did Tolstoy in writing about individual families, the universal in the particular. In a land of the blind, goes an old saying, the one-eyed man is king. By keeping both eyes wide, Oscar Brown opens ours as well.

October 30, 2007 · 2 comments


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