Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Best Jazz Compositions 3: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

In no particular order (except putting 'Round Midnight' first) my third best-in-house-jazz-composition is 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,' Charlie Mingus' homage to Lester Young. Back when I was trying, unsuccessfully, to learn to pay the guitar, I sort of learned to play this song. I have always found the melody irresistible. It appears first, I believe, on Mingus' magnum opus: Mingus Ah Um. That version is superb, and very easy to find. Another excellent version can be found on Joni Mitchell's Mingus, her homage to that Wolf Larson of jazz. Mitchell wrote lyrics.
When Charlie
speaks of Lester,
You know someone
great has gone.
That swingin'
sweetest music man,
had a Porky Pig Hat on.
Not bad. But the version I tried to learn to play was transcribed by a very patient guitar teacher from a rather obscure album by John McLaughlin: My Goals Beyond. Here's McLaughlin's cover of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.


  1. That John McLaughlin album "My Goals Beyond" was my first introduction to Jazz. I was into prog-rock at the time; Hendrix, Cream, Airplane, Dead. A college friend told me we were going to see this strange guitarist in Syracuse NY. He played this beautiful serene acoustic album. One side had some jazz ballads played acoustically with some fiery solo lines overdubbed, and the second side some strange Indian fused music suitable for meditations. We were expecting to see this group in Syracuse that evening. When we got to the NY State Fairgrounds, circa 1973, we were seated on the floor of this corrugated steel temporary building with about 70 others. The stage was stacked with Marshall amplifiers and the biggest drum set I had ever seen. Mahavishnu Orchestra took the stage. The group stood silently for about 2 minutes of meditation. Billy Cobham picked up a mallet and struck a Gong, followed by more decibels and sonic energy than I had ever been exposed to in my life. That concert turned into a life altering experience (maybe the LSD flowing through my brains had something to do with that). Next day I picked up Mahavishnu's Inner Mounting Flame. I wore right through those vinyl grooves. I wanted to hear anything that cat had played on which of course exposed me to Miles, Wayne, Herbie, Tony etc. Rest is history.

  2. What a great story. It seems we both have a connection to "My Goals Beyond." I had a devil of a time finding a copy, even in Southern California, in the early eighties. I eventually did, but hadn't heard it in years until I downloaded it from eMusic. I was never a big fan of jazz fusion, though I did wear out my copy of Al DiMeola's Elegant Gypsy. I think that I appreciate it a lot more now than I did back then.