Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Stop! Look! And Sing Songs of Revolutions!

"Track A - Solo Dancer"

I've been listening to jazz again. Maybe because I'm getting older. My dad's jazz records and my mom's dancehall tapes were practically all I listened to until I got to middle school. Most of the jazz my dad played was trumpet-focused, being a trumpet player himself. Fellow Angeleno (sorry) Mingus I found on my own, having had my own bassist dreams deferred at age six, told by a music teacher that I was too small for even the 1/4 sized bass. I studied violin instead. I still think - why not cello? Mingus played cello. "You're black," a friend told him when he was seventeen. "You'll never make it in classical music no matter how good you are. You want to play, you gotta play a Negro instrument." And so he picked up the bass.

For The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Mingus asked his psychologist to provide liner notes for the album.
When Mr. Mingus first asked me to write a review of the music he composed for this record, I was astonished and told him so. I said I thought I was competent enough as a psychologist but that my interest in music was only average and without any technical background. Mr. Mingus laughed and said he didn't care, that if I heard his music I'd understand. This is the uniqueness of this man: he jolts with the unexpected and the new. He has something to say and he will use every resource to interpret his messages. After all, why not have a psychologist try to interpret the projections of a composer musician? Psychologists interpret behavior and/or ideas communicated by words and behavior - why not apply this skill to music? It's certainly a refreshing approach that Mr. Mingus suggests.

As Nat Hentoff has stated, "Mingus is ingenuous," ever growing, looking for change and ways to communicate his life experiences, his awareness and feelings of himself and life. His early and late life sufferings as a person and as a black man were surely enough to cause sour bitterness, hate, distortions and withdrawal. Yet, Mr. Mingus never has given up. From every experience such as a conviction for assault or as an inmate of a Bellevue locked ward, Mr. Mingus has learned something and has stated it will not happen again to him. He is painfully aware of his feelings and he wants desperately to heal them. He also is cognizant of a power dominated and segregated society's impact upon the underdog, the underprivileged and the minority. Inarticulate in words, he is gifted in musical expression which he constantly uses to articulate what he perceives, knows and feels.

To me this particular composition contains Mr. Mingus' personal and also a social message. He feels intensively. He tries to tell people he is in great pain and anguish because he loves. He cannot accept that he is alone, all by himself; he wants to love and be loved. His music is a call for acceptance, respect, love, understanding, fellowship, freedom - a plea to change the evil in man and to end hatred. The titles of this composition suggest the plight of the black man and a plea to the white man to be aware.

He seems to state that the black man is not alone but all mankind must unite in revolution against any society that restricts freedom and human rights.

In all three tracks of Side I there are recurrent themes of loneliness, separateness and tearful depression. One feels deeply for the tears of Mr. Mingus that fall for himself and man. There can be no question that he is the Black Saint who suffers for his sins and those of mankind as he reflects his deeply religious philosophy. His music tells of his deep yearning for love, peace and freedom. A new note has crept into his music. Where once there was a great anger now one can hear hope. As with much of his past music, Mr. Mingus cries of misunderstanding of self and people. Throughout he presents a brooding, moaning intensity about prejudice, hate and persecution.

In the first track of Side I there is heard a solo voice expressed by the alto saxophone - a voice calling to others and saying "I am alone, please, please join me!" The deep mourning and tears of loneliness are echoed and re-echoed by the instruments in Mr. Mingus' attempt to express his feelings about separation from and among the discordant people of the world. The suffering is terrible to hear.

In track B, the music starts with a tender theme. It is a duet dance song in which many emotions of relatedness are expressed - warmth, tenderness, passion. The music then changes into a mood of what I would call mounting restless agitation and anguish as if there is tremendous conflict between love and hate. This is climaxed by the piercing cries of the trombone and answering saxophones as if saying the "I" of personal identity must be achieved and accepted.

Track C begins with the happiest of themes. Here Mr. Mingus himself plays a classical piano reverie backed by a lyrical flute and cymbals. It is sweet and soft and has a lightness rarely seen in Mr. Mingus’ music. But once again the music shifts into a tonal despair and brooding anguish. The theme suggested by the title is the peace and happiness of the free person contrasted with the pain and tears of the black man. Mr. Mingus uses many forms of technique and instrumentation to reflect his meaning. He told me his use of the Spanish guitar was meant to mirror the period of the Spanish Inquisition and El Greco’s mood of oppressive poverty and death.

Side II develops all these themes in a very carefully worked out musical composition in concert style, repeating and integrating harmony and disharmony, peace and disquiet, and love and hate. The ending seem unfinished but one is left with a feeling of hope and even a promise of future joy.

Mr. Mingus thinks this is his best record. It may very well be his best to date for his present stage of development as other records were in his past. It must be emphasized that Mr. Mingus is not yet complete. He is still in a process of change and personal development. Hopefully the integration in society will keep pace with his. One must continue to expect more surprises from him.

Edmund Pollock, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist 
"Medley: Mode D - Trio and Group Dancers
Mode E - Single Solos and Group Dance
Mode F - Group and Solo Dance"

No comments

Post a Comment

© CLUB SANDWICH
Maira Gall