eric mingus - The I-94 Bar
I suppose you might think of this as “modern jazz”, a term I find too concrete, too easily dismissable. I think it's fair to say that most people find improvised, loosely structured music either to be crap, or too much effort to pay attention to. Which is why you don't hear yer actual John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman in the elevator or supermarkets.
Why they play horrible current “pop” in these places I have no idea, as it makes me hurry to get what I need and run; I mean, if I could get my groceries in a place with either nothing playing or bland light classical wittering away in the background I'd be very happy... oh, then there's the likes of Albert Ayler... don't get me started.
I like music, but you may have gathered that already. I'm not that keen on definitions, though. Cradle of Filth started in one area, but bent the rules and ended up with a big, broader sound which still fits (albeit somewhat untidily) into a genre-area-type-thing.
I was pondering the nature of what genuinely constitutes the avant garde. Encountered live on a good night (they weren't always good) outfits like Joy Division or the New York Dolls, would have had a considerable impact. But they still operated within the confines - sort of - of the rock'n'roll structure.
One wonders what the ordinary punter (ie, not a seeker of bonkers enlightenment) would have made of that extraordinary masterpiece, "Trout Mask Replica" much less "Sketches of Spain". However, here we have two recordings which well and truly fit the term avant garde.
First, to Eric Mingus, a man of considerable talent, who rarely seems to give interviews - probably because he keeps getting asked about his dad, Charlie (if you don't know who I mean, do some digging), which would miss the point: Eric is well and truly an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist and composer.
The Devil's Weight - Eric Mingus (Ouch! Records)
I first saw Eric Mingus on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre in Adelaide a few years ago, masterminding (with producer Hal Willner) a production of The Who's 'Tommy'... which I confess I didn't expect to work. But, not only did it work, it took my breath away.
If you don't feel like reading the full review, on the night I described Eric on the night as an "offhand, casual narrator with a fabulous, rich voice with a gobsmacking range who sets us up for a mischievous, powerful story, more human because it’s all happening right in front of us. What for some was a rather stilted and peculiar concept LP has become an alive, twisting, emotional creature; the story is instantly in us. His later (all too brief) scat singing is incredible, just amazing".
Even if you don’t like what people call jazz, you’ll react to "I Reject This Reality". It’s far more honest, creative, exciting and interesting than dealing with those talentless oiks, berks and preening nobodies on the telly. Talk about too much methane in a fartbubble - hell, how many channels do we have these days? And how much is really, truly, actually worth watching? Are we children or goldfish to be distracted so long and so often by such bling? Life’s far, far too short. Dig "I Reject This Reality", it’s far more grown-up.
You may recognise the surname. Eric’s dad was famous, and groundbreaking at a time when ground needed to be broken, and the world watched with bated breath for every new jazz development.
Jazz, that is, real jazz, not that muck you hear in shopping malls, nor that cheery "trad jazz" stuff which seems so much part of the everyday background now, is now a rare thing. There is no longer a huge, rollercoasting movement like there was from the twenties to the sixties. This isn’t a new concept; you can say that the rollercoaster of punk and new wave more or less shivered, then sort of dawdled forward from, say, late 1984 (notwithstanding there were still brilliant bands and lps, the tidal wave was receding from the foothills, only to begin to gain momentum in Japan when nobody in The West was looking).
You, devoted I-94 Bar reader, may have noticed a review I did a few weeks back, for the album by New York-raised, now Ireland-domiciled multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Eric Mingus, called "Fog of Forgiveness". One of Eric's collaborators, Catherine Sikora, sent it to me out of the blue, and when I had a chance to listen, I was rather blown away.
Eric Mingus came to my attention several years ago, when a musical interpretation of "Tommy” (the Who double LP) played in Adelaide for the Festival Fringe, at the magnificent Her Majesty's Theatre (now being rebuilt). I thought that, since I wanted to ask Eric about a ton of stuff, I asked Catherine if I could do an e-mail interview with Eric. He doesn't seem to do that many interviews - possibly because of the nature of interviewers.
His dad Charles was a mighty jazz legend (if you know who I mean, then read on; if not, get Googling); however, if you have your own, distinct musical drive, people will always compare the first with the second. (Recall that Sir Winston Churchill named his son Winston Spencer-Churchill - imagine going to school with that millstone of a name...) Eric Mingus is a very different kettle of fish to his dad, and what he does is... well, it is to some extent beyond music to my mind.
Rather than a series of straight Q&As, I had more of an email conversation with Eric, so if the preambles seem a little involved... well, sod you. I'm writing this for your entertainment. Either be entertained, or don't be. There are a lot of musical springboards (ie, links in here. You're far too conservative in your musical tastes). Get corrupted and follow the links. Lastly, Eric writes in American English, and yes, he has spelled his words correctly.