Charles Mingus — Mingus at Antibes
You only lose when you quit trying.
When you stop growing and succumb.
One of the greatest fighters in this regard was Charles Mingus. The tortured genius, he fought everyone it seemed, friend and foe alike. But he never stopped fighting, never stopped speaking out. He took his bass like he was going to the front lines and fought every day with no quarter given. Fighting mean, fighting dirty, by any means necessary he was gonna fight. Win or lose he was dedicated. He was the essence of his blues, his struggle, a conflicted and complicated, complex man. Unafraid to admit that he was the product of the cognitive dissonance that was his upbringing.
His music was a perfect representation of this dichotomy. He played with rage, fueled by the frustration of racism of being dismissed and cast aside. Fuck that he said, kicking in the door and showcasing elegance and brutality in the same breath. Stunningly he incorporated the highest musical concepts with gutbucket blues and free music that eschewed form embracing only pure emotional expression with no limitations or compromise. He was truly an artist expressing his mental, social, and spiritual struggles in real-time.
This live performance here showcases that in perhaps its best form. No piano. His rhythmic partner Danny Richmond swatting the drums like a lanky ghoul the two of them a dynamic duo of fiendish intensity. Possibly my favorite all-time jazz rhythm duo.
Add to that the horn trio of Booker Ervin, Ted Curson, and Eric Dolphy. Geniuses in their own right. Dolphy was a tragic figure single-handedly introducing the bass clarinet as a valid jazz instrument, revolutionizing jazz flute with his free improvisations influenced by bird songs and his loping intervallic and angular alto. He died tragically at a young age in Germany, a victim of racism. He was a diabetic who went into insulin shock when the doctors saw his needle marks they dismissed him as a heroin addict jazz musician who just needed to kick his habit letting him die as a result. At his funeral, Mingus jumped in the grave and exclaimed “it should’ve been me” fuck racism.
This is spiritual jazz. A musical manifesto.