Essential: Absolutely necessary; extremely important.
Mingus’ Blues and Roots was a huge changing point musically. It is also an album I’ve already taken a look at here so I won’t spend much time on it. Structurally, Ah Um is very similar to the aforementioned album. This isn’t a surprise considering how closely the two were released. What is shocking is just how much more brilliant of a whole Ah Um is to Blues and Roots. The latter being no slouch and still one of the best in the genre, this record is an entirely different beast.
Better Git It In Your Soul opens things up ferociously and spectacularly here. Things are firing on all cylinders straight out of the gate which makes Blues and Roots seem like the warmup lap in retrospect. I fail to think of a better opening song to introduce any album in music. It bounces in a jovial manner all around the listener like an overstimulated kid at a carnival. The shouts and instrumental changes are as vibrant as ever but things are just that much more tighter than previous outings to be noticeable.
Not a bad pressing in the slightest
Obviously, the main driving force across the entire album is Mingus’ bopping bass. In the past he has had the tendency to overplay his hand which isn’t unusual for bandleaders of the era. It is his name on the marquee and on the record sleeves after all. Still, it is nice to hear him take a few steps back and allow the band to take the lead more often than usual on studio albums. On the more upbeat tracks such as Boogie Stop Shuffle the brass takes the lead and it works well to add variety. Actually, everything here is paced well throughout with some of the best sequencing I’ve heard on any album ever.
Mingus Ah Um, as a whole is a must-have for anyone with even a passing interest in music. It is for anyone in any mood. The songs are so vastly varied from one another and brilliantly composed that it is impossible to turn off once the needle has been dropped. For a tasty introduction give Goodbye Pork Pie Hat a listen, then follow it up with any other song. The differences are so instantly engaging but different that it is a surprise that they are on the same record. This could have been a very easy thing to mess up and make sound disjointed or fragmented like a lot of other albums of this era.
If you don’t own one of the many versions of Mingus Ah Um you are doing yourself a great disservice. The high scores and universal praises are justified, not that anyone else’s opinions should ever matter. At the time it was criminally overshadowed by all of the other big records but it is by far my personal favorite. Any day, any year, any mood.
Better Git It In Your Soul
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Boogie Stop Shuffle
Self-Portrait In Three Colors
Open Letter To Duke
Fables Of Faubus
Pussy Cat Dues