A very cool album of renditions of Charles Mingus compositions, with a modern approach, but all the spirit of the originals. Plenty of solid trombone work, bass parts that keep a conversant chatter then switch to dreamy arco lines that amp up the mood to entire new plateaus of vibrancy. It wasn’t just Charles Mingus’s expressions of innovative music that made him special, but his devotion to the blues music that lay at the heart of it all. With Meditation On No Integration, Ah.Hum. recognizes this, because, this album, as maniacal as it sounds at times, has a soul that’s impossible to overlook.
Your album personnel: Simone Pederzoli (trombone, baritone flugelhorn, live electronics), Matteo Zucconi (double bass, laptop, live electronics), and guest: Alessandro Betti (guitar, live electronics).
The album opens with a furious assault of brass and electronics on “Like a Bastard,” which recedes into a restrained trombone section that occasionally growls with electronics or laughs with a mute. “Meditation On No Integration” somehow manages to sound even more whimsically eerie than Bill Frisell & Hal Wilner’s take on the composition. “Boogie Stop Shuffle” is an electric guitar right cross followed by a trombone left hook, reminiscent of the guitar-heavy coolness of Mingus’s Three Or Four Shades of Blues. Updated version of “Haitian Fight Song” (replaced with word “Libyan”) just might be the most haunting tune anyone will hear all year.
The second half of the album begins with “Bluesility,” a simple duo of bass and trombone, and a stripped down version of all the music that surrounds it on this album, which makes for a comparatively startling transition. “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” is transformed into a cool groove, accompanied by distant trombone and simmering electronics. And “Self-Portrait in Three Colors,” a sublime ballad on Mingus’s classic album Mingus Ah Um, is transformed into a ghost town… electronics rip through the composition, echoes of the melody call out from the past, and all that’s left is the Slow Fade to the album’s end.
This kind of thing could’ve been gimmicky, could’ve been a classless grab at some spotlight on the coattails of a truly great musician, but that’s not how it played out. A genuinely engaging and fun album, one that can summon up nostalgia for the days of originally discovering the work of Charles Mingus, but also an album that can be enjoyed on its own terms and viewed as a positive sign on the state of current jazz musicians’ vision as they balance the weight of the jazz past and the weight of their own view of their jazz future. Great stuff. Unnecessary to be familiar with Mingus’s work to listen to this album, just dive right in.
Released on the El Gallo Rojo Records label.
Jazz from the Bologna, Italy scene.
You can stream more tracks at Ah Hum’s Soundcloud page.