Mingus (Joni Mitchell album)

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Studio album by Joni Mitchell



Label (s) Asylum Records

Format (s)


Genre (s)

Jazz , fusion

running time



Studio (s)

A&M Studios, Hollywood and Electric Lady Studios, New York

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
Mingus Shadows and Light
Charles Mingus in 1976 in Manhattan (New York)

Mingus is the tenth studio album by Joni Mitchell and was created in collaboration with jazz musician Charles Mingus . It was recorded in the months before his death on January 5, 1979, making it Mingus' last musical project.

History of the album

Shortly before his death in 1979, Mingus, terminally ill with ALS - unable to play an instrument but equipped with a tape recorder - created a series of new compositions. Among them was Alive and Well in Dukeland , performed by Mercer Ellington in September 1978 . He wrote other pieces such as Pilobolus for a New York dance company of the same name, as well as Four Quartets , based on TS Eliot 's work of the same name.

Joni Mitchell was made aware of Mingus' compositions by the Italian film producer Daniele Senatore . Mingus, in turn, had contacted her first to ask if she would like to write lyrics for six of his new compositions. In April 1978 she visited Mingus at his New York apartment on Manhattan Plaza to discuss the material. The title A Chair in the Sky comes from this meeting .

Originally the project envisaged that Mitchell should edit the text for Mingus' instrumentation. He planned to use a full orchestra, as well as guitar and bass to accompany Mitchell's vocals and the playback of the selected sections of text. After a few weeks of deliberation, Mitchell said, “She might as well compress the Bible.” Mingus then created six melodies for Joni Mitchell, named Joni I to Joni VI .

In total, Mingus composed four new songs for Mitchell. The theme of Sweet Sucker Dance is an extension of the opening phrase of Sue's Changes (from the album Changes One / Two , 1975). A fade-in, howling wolf sets atmospheric accents in The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey , inspired by the first chapters of Mingus' autobiography Beneath the Underdog . Mitchell presented the recordings of these songs to Mingus on her subsequent visits. Only God Must Be a Boogie You couldn't hear him anymore. Three of the new songs were found both on the Mingus album and on the first Mingus Dynasty album , for which Sy Johnson wrote the arrangement.

Along with these new songs came Mingus' tribute to saxophonist Lester Young , the track Goodbye Pork Pie Hat , which he first recorded on his classic album Mingus Ah Um in 1959 . Mitchell wrote a new text about it.

As with the previous production Don Juan's Reckless Daughter , Mitchell had hired musicians from the fusion band Weather Report , Jaco Pastorius , Wayne Shorter , Peter Erskine and Don Alias , as well as the pianist Herbie Hancock and the percussionist Emil Richards . First test shots had Mitchell during their New York stay with Mingus in sessions with Stanley Clarke and Eddie Gomez (bass), Jan Hammer ( Minimoog ), John McLaughlin (guitar), Gerry Mulligan (bass saxophone), Phil Woods (alto saxophone) and Tony Williams recorded ; allegedly some of these recordings became known in the late 1990s.

There were also additional short, Rap -called tape recordings that Sue Graham Mingus contributed, including a scat singing Joni Mitchell and Mingus were, a short presentation of Stuff Smith -Swingstandards I'se Muggin ' and Charles and Sue Mingus as on discussed his age with a Swedish guest at his birthday party. In the short Funeral sequence , Mingus and others discussed how long he had to live and what his burial would look like; he referred to the Vedanta Society and claimed, "I'm going to cut Duke [Ellington]!" God Must Be a Boogie Man was the only song Mingus could no longer hear; he was admitted two days after his death; Mitchell postulated in the liner notes that Mingus thought he was funny. The artwork on the LP consisted of several portraits that Joni Mitchell of Mingus had painted.

Reception of the album

Mingus reached # 17 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. First, the album caused a controversy: "If the album for some time been highly controversial - Jazz purists felt a sacrilege to make out pop purists, however, lamented a supposed lack of of original vitality - so it was also a kind of seismograph of The depth and breadth of the man who had made a significant contribution to lifting jazz out of tradition over the threshold to new jazz. "

The Allmusic rated the album with four (out of five) stars. Lindsay Planer wrote: “Mitchell could hardly have found a better cast than this sextet , which she ultimately incorporated into her work. Sprinkled between these inspired jazzy pieces, she added the five raps , acoustic snapshots from their collaboration. Unfortunately, Mingus died before he could hear this timeless hymn of praise for his remarkable contribution to bop and free jazz . "

Joni Mitchell (1983)

Robert Christgau criticized Mingus as “a brave experiment, but many of these experiments fail. More spontaneity, wisdom and humor can be found in the 2:25 [minutes] of Mingus' Raps than in any of her handcrafted texts. "

Track list

  • Joni Mitchell: Mingus (Asylum K53091)
  1. Happy Birthday 1975 (Rap) - 0:57
  2. God Must Be a Boogie Man - 4:35
  3. Funeral (Rap) - 1:07
  4. A Chair in the Sky (Mingus) - 6:42
  5. The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey - 6:35
  6. I's a Muggin '(Rap) - 0:07
  7. Sweet Sucker Dance - 8:04 (Mingus)
  8. Coin in the Pocket (Rap) - 0:11
  9. The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines (Mingus) - 3:21
  10. Lucky (Rap) - 0:04
  11. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (Mingus) - 5:37
  • The lyrics are by Joni Mitchell, as is the music, unless otherwise stated.


Web links


  1. In the original: “Arguably, Mitchell could not have chosen any finer musicians than the sextet she ultimately incorporated into this work. [...] Sprinkled amongst these soulfully jazzy pieces are five "raps," or aural snapshots of the time Mitchell and Mingus spent together. Sadly, Charles Mingus passed before he was able to listen to this timeless and ageless paean to his remarkable contributions to bop and free jazz. "

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Priestley, pp. 225f.
  2. a b c Review of Lindsay Planer's album Mingus at Allmusic (English). Retrieved April 19, 2011.
  3. ^ Priestley, p. 229
  4. The first text was from Roland Kirk . See Priestley, p. 226, who thinks Mitchell's text is better.
  5. ^ Wieland Harms: The Unplugged Guitar Book. 20 of the most beautiful songs for acoustic guitar. Gerig Music, ISBN 3-87252-249-3 , p. 13.
  6. Jörg Alisch Mingus portrait (Jazzpages)
  7. ^ Robert Christgau