Wednesday, January 13, 2016


The other day, I suggested that jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-1977) was the godfather of hip-hop, as his music incorporated samples of the past, both recorded and in his own playing. Turntablists were emerging on the scene just around the time that Rahsaan died, but he improvised before their arrival by keeping a small cassette player tied around his neck to provide samples of recorded music for the stage mic, accepting, and even grooving on, the tinny distortion of his crude analog setup.

Charles Mingus (1922-1979) could be considered the godfather of punk, or at least punk attitude. His Wikipedia bio notes that Mingus was as well known for his often fearsome temperament as he was for his ambitious music.  His refusal to compromise his musical integrity led to many onstage eruptions, exhortations to musicians, and dismissals, and earned him the nickname "The Angry Man of Jazz."  I've heard of at least one sideman who said he was so afraid of Charlie Mingus that he would keep a pistol hidden with his equipment during practice sessions.

What I like about Mingus' music is its intensity, and how it so often verges on chaos and sounds like all hell's going to break loose at any moment, and then Mingus steps in and effortlessly restores order with some Ellingtonian swagger.

It might seem a stretch to draw parallels between punk rock and jazz, but many punk rockers have claimed jazz innovators like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler to be influences, even if they didn't exactly sound like them.  Check out this song titled Albert Ayler's Ghosts (Ghosts was a seminal 1964 free-jazz recording by the Albert Ayler Quartet) by Cleveland no-wavers x_____x, and who, by the way, are playing at 529 tonight.   Hear how, like Rahsaan, they incorporate samples of recorded music (Neil Young's Needle and the Damage Done) and in their playing quote songs as diverse as Simon & Garfunkel (Feelin' Groovy) and The Rolling Stones (Satisfaction), and how, like Mingus and Ayler, they are fiercely uncompromising in their approach.

For point of comparison (or contrast), here's Albert Ayler's Ghosts:

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