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Better Git It In Your Soul
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Boogie Stop Shuffle
Self-Portrait In Three Colors
Open Letter To Duke
Limited to 6,000 hand-numbered copies. Most pressings came with two photo glossies by Don Hunstein as shown.
Mastered at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab®, Sebastopol, CA on The Gain 2 Ultra Analog System™
© 1959, 2019 Columbia Records, a Division of Sony Music Entertainment.
Mingus Ah Um is a studio album by American jazz musician Charles Mingus, released in October 1959 by Columbia Records. It was his first album recorded for Columbia. The cover features a painting by S. Neil Fujita. The title is a corruption of an imaginary Latin declension. It is common for Latin students to memorize Latin adjectives by first saying the masculine nominative (usually ending in “-us”), then the feminine nominative (“-a”), and finally the neuter nominative singular (“-um”)—implying a transformation of his name, Mingus, Minga, Mingum. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD calls this album “an extended tribute to ancestors” (and awards it one of their rare crowns), and Mingus’s musical forebears figure largely throughout. “Better Git It In Your Soul” is inspired by gospel singing and preaching of the sort that Mingus would have heard as a child growing up in Watts, Los Angeles, California, while “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is a reference (by way of his favored headgear) to saxophonist Lester Young (who had died shortly before the album was recorded). The origin and nature of “Boogie Stop Shuffle” is self-explanatory: a twelve-bar blues with four themes and a boogie bass backing that passes from stop time to shuffle and back.
“Self-Portrait in Three Colors” was originally written for John Cassavetes’ first film as director, Shadows, but was never used (for budgetary reasons). “Open Letter to Duke” is a tribute to Duke Ellington, and draws on three of Mingus’s earlier pieces (“Nouroog”, “Duke’s Choice”, and “Slippers”). “Jelly Roll” is a reference to jazz pioneer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton and features a quote of Sonny Rollins’ “Sonnymoon for Two” during Horace Parlan’s piano solo. “Bird Calls”, in Mingus’s own words, was not a reference to bebop saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker: “It wasn’t supposed to sound like Charlie Parker. It was supposed to sound like birds – the first part.”
“Fables of Faubus” is named after Orval E. Faubus (1910–1994), the Governor of Arkansas infamous for his 1957 stand against integration of Little Rock, Arkansas schools in defiance of U.S. Supreme Court rulings (forcing President Eisenhower to send in the National Guard). Columbia Records refused to allow the lyrics to the song to be included, and so the song was recorded as an instrumental on the album. It was not until October 20, 1960, that the song was recorded with lyrics, for the album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, which was released on the more independent Candid label. Due to contractual issues with Columbia, the song could not be released as “Fables of Faubus”, and so the Candid version was titled “Original Faubus Fables”.
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