March 22, 2011

Hobo Ho

Track 5 on Charles Mingus' Let My Children Hear Music
Arranged by Charles Mingus and dictated to Bobby Jones. Conducted by Sy Johnson.
·         1,7: September 23, 1971, New York City
·         5: September 30, 1971, New York City
·         3: October 1, 1971, New York City
·         4: September 23-November 18, 1971, New York City
·         6,2: November 18, 1971, New York City
  • Lonnie Hillyer, Joe Wilder, Snooky Young, & Jimmy Nottingham - trumpet
  • Julius Watkins - French horn
  • Bobby Jones & James Moody - tenor sax
  • Charles McCracken - cello
  • Charles McPherson & Jerry Dodgion- alto sax
  • Sir Roland Hanna & Jaki Byard- piano
  • Jimmy Knepper - trombone
  • Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Richard Davis, & Milt Hinton - bass
  • Dannie Richmond - drums

within the confines of my early memories,
his name haunts me.

As if it hovers on the edge of my peripheral vision,
only noticed in sudden movement.

As if it is a memory before a known vocabulary to describe it.

As if it is a dream at four, where I wake up,
then roll over and go back to sleep,
And then remember at seven that the dream was disturbing
but I’m not sure why.

A name that I knew,
A sound I was drawn to,
An oddity whose temper was only matched by his gifts.
An egotistical bass player,
whose compositions challenged every one who played them.

Was he more of the swing era-Duke Ellington
or Be-bop-Charlie Parker?

Mixed blood oddity.
Half white/half black father lit out for LA from Arizona
Hooked up with a half Chinese/half Swede woman
who died when he was young.
Raised by a half black/half Indian woman,
he wanted so much to fit in,
but realized he never would.

How strange that he would pick an instrument
that’s rarely played alone?

Yet he became a band leader anyway.
Commanded the stage with the musical heartbeat,
Maintain the line.
Trust his sonic vision.

He told his only son that he was no color too,
and it's true.
He had a white mother, yet sports his father’s looks, but shy,
as all children of geniuses tend to be.

How do you live up to genius in your own life?
Let alone when the genius is your father,
and he sucks attention out of the room.

Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Peak of mental prowess,
his body just couldn’t take the abuse anymore,
couldn’t pull the bow across the strings,
stretch stubby fingers over wide frets and play that music,
so challenging,
that it became physically impossible.

Aging is cruel Charles Mingus, you “angry man” of jazz.
Mingus you wish your body was young again
So you could do the things you would excel at now because of time.
To play music, make love with the wisdom of age,
but stuck with a body that is old.

Ah Mingus, you’re no clown.
In your pork pie hat,
your children hear music,
sing blues and politics,
understand your dynasty
and sign off in epitaph.

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