Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Charles Mingus: Jazz and Cumbia Fusion, 1978
I usually try to avoid posting albums that are up on other blogs, but this one seemed so relevant to the last two posts that I wanted to say something about it too. First of all, the album itself is great, not one of my favorite Mingus albums, but a fun listen. It opens up with bird songs that slowly drop out as percussion instruments enter. That intro reminds me a lot of the first Accra Trane Station track on Steve Feld's Time of Bells 3 album, (couldn't find it on youtube, sorry;) it's jazz but the producer has a very present role. From there, the sound becomes more recognizably Mingus, but a lot of the first side in particular revolves around a couple cumbia-esque riffs. To me, the "cumbia" on this disc doesn't even really sound all that convincing. I see it more as a jazz interpretation of cumbia than a genuine attempt to create a hybrid music with strong roots in both genres.
The thing that stuck out to me about this album is Mingus's attempt to reach out to a music whose roots in the Black diaspora are well known but which does not have much of a history within jazz. Mingus's fusion attempt was different from Mustafa-Zadeh's work because Mingus was not a foreign musician trying to force his music into jazz from the outside. Like Mustafa-Zadeh, though, he was not drawing on a long history of cross cultural jazz hybrids either, so the composition process must have taken a fair amount of creativity and mold-breaking on his part. But overall, it seems like the inclusion of cumbia on this record was more of a way to freshen things up than to take a deep look at cumbia forms. This partial embrace of cumbia fits a theme that I've noticed in a lot of Mingus's music: he hints at or acknowledges a variety of genres (typically blues and subgenres of jazz) but ultimately adapts them all to fit his own artistic vision. In that sense, despite the uncharacteristic inclusion of a Latin American influence, this record is actually fairly conventional for Mingus.
Jazz and Cumbia Fusion by Easy Jams