Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

For me, this is the composition that keeps on giving. All these years after I first heard it on John McLaughlin's album (see my earlier post), it still raises the hairs on the back of neck. Charlie Mingus' incomparable homage to Lester Young is my favorite jazz melody. It's been given lyrics at least a couple of times. I can't listen to it without remembering Joni Mitchell's words:
When Charlie
speaks of Lester,
You know someone
great has gone.
That swingin'
sweetest music man,
had a Porky Pig Hat on.
This blog, which I started with the idea of building a library of comments around Miles Davis, has wandered a bit. I have focused on a lot of avant garde recordings, and some pretty obscure and challenging ones at that. There was a time when I was contemptuous of such things. No more. This last week I acquired a duet album with Steve Lacy on soprano sax and Eric Watson on piano. It's classic Lacy: melancholy and ponderous. But I can't tear myself away from it. And it has a haunting interpretation of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. The disc isn't easy to come by, but they have it on eMusic. Here it is:
Steve Lacy & Eric Watson/Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Spirit of Mingus
This is a jazz gourmet tasting a splendid meal. I love the way the horn and piano divide the melody up, with Lacy stating it twice in different moods, and the Watson moving on to the second movement. Check out the whole thing.

Here is the original recording from Mingus Ah Um. Booker Ervin, whom I have celebrated frequently on these pages, plays tenor on the album.
Charles Mingus/Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Mingus Ah Um
Mingus produced a magnificent album. He doesn't hog the stage. You'd be hard put, if you didn't know, that the bass was in charge. The horns are all elvish magic. If this isn't in your library, you don't have a library.

Here is another take, from YouTube. Mingus on bass, Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. Montreux, 1975.


  1. My first introduction to this song was Jeff Beck's version in the 70s. Then I heard another version by Stanley Clarke in the 80s. Finally I started reaching back to jazz roots and heard the original. Mingus Ah Um blows me away every time I listen to it.

    Thank you for alerting me to another version of this wonderful song.

  2. You are very welcome. GBPPH is my single favorite jazz composition. I have heard the Beck version, but not the one by Stanley Clarke. If you haven't heard Joni Mitchell's version, I recommend that you seek it out.

    Thanks for the comment. It gets pretty lonely here.

  3. I have loved the Jeck Beck version for 33 years. I recently attended a concert at Stanford called 1959 revisited and I now plan on finally giving attention to this watershed musical period. Ah Um I obtained today; I can't wait to listen...