Matt and I are big Jazz fans. Each WordPress release is named after a legendary Jazz musician. Already speculation about the name of the next release of WP is brewing. But before we delve into the future, let’s review where we have been.
1.0.1 was named after Miles Davis. Everyone knows Miles. They know the West Coast Cool Miles at least. Raise your hand if you don’t already have a copy of Birth of the Cool, Sketches of Spain, or Kind of Blue? Okay, you two in the back put your hands down and go buy these albums so that you don’t feel left out. Miles was probably the greatest innovator of cool jazz, and the lyricism of his recordings from his cool period has made them staggeringly popular. Later in his career he jumped into electric and free jazz with the less popular and less accessible Bitches Brew. I love it all.
1.0.2 gave the nod to drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. Blakey and his Jazz Messenger’s produced some of the great classics of hard bop. Moanin’ and A Night in Tunisia are two of my favorites. Both albums feature Bobby Timmons on piano and Lee Morgan on trumpet. This is powerful, hard-drivin’ hard bop at its best.
Now we come to 1.2 series, which was named after one of my favorite jazz composers, Charles Mingus. His most popular album is probably Mingus Ah Um. Every track is greatness. “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is a beautiful, melodic tribute to Lester Young. Fables of Faubus satirizes the governor of Arkansas who opposed school integration. “Better Git It in Your Soul” is a rousing gospel shout. “Open Letter to Duke”, “Bird Calls”, and “Jelly Roll” are tributes to Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Jelly Roll Morton, respectively. Ah Um is a great introduction to Mingus.
Blues & Roots is a swingin’ selection of blues and gospel that Mingus recorded as a response to those who said he was too European and couldn’t swing. Swing he can. “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”, “Cryin’ Blues”, and “Moanin'” are the standouts with Mingus’ spectacular bass playing coming to the front.
The Clown brings us the amazing “Haitian Fight Song” and “Reincarnation of a Lovebird”. Mingus’ bass on Haitian Fight song is propulsive and intense.
On Oh Yeah, Mingus hires someone else to play bass so that he can sit down at the piano. He also sings/preaches on this very bluesy, easy-going album. On “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me”, he delivers his famous line, “Oh lord, don’t let them drop that atomic bomb on me. Don’t let them drop it! Stop it! Bebop it!” Mingus tips his hat to Fats Waller on the comical “Eat That Chicken” which is a fun song about the joys of eating chicken.
Mingus at Antibes features one of the best bands Mingus ever put together. Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, and a guest appearance by Bud Powell — enough said.
And now we come to an extended composition that is arguably Mingus’ masterpiece, The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady. Beautiful and emotional, this is one of the greatest jazz compositions ever. The liner notes feature interesting essays from Mingus and his psychiatrist.
Mingus had an interesting life, some of which he documented in his autobiography Beneath the Underdog, a sanitized version of his original manuscript with the more challenging and sensational title of “Half Yaller Schitt-Colored N*gger”. Beneath the Underdog is a stream of consciousness, exaggerated tale of his life complete with some extraordinary and unbelievable accounts of his sexual prowess with a large number of Tijuana sex workers. Mingus was a great composer, band leader, and bass player–and a very interesting character.
And now we arrive at the 1.5 “Strayhorn” series. Billy Strayhorn was Duke Ellington’s longtime musical partner. Strayhorn composed some of Ellington’s greatest songs, including his signature tune “Take the ‘A’ Train”. Shortly after Strayhorn’s death, Ellington recorded … and His Mother Called Him Bill. This tribute album is comprised exclusively of Strayhorn’s compositions and is a great way to get a feel for Strayhorn’s contributions to one of the great musical partnerships. If you want to know more about Strayhorn, the biography Lush Life is a great read.
So, who will the next release of WP be named after? That hasn’t been decided, but suggestions are being made. Eric Dolphy, Stan Getz, Lennie Tristano, John Coltrane, and Thelonius Monk have been mentioned. Who’s your pick?