“Blues & Roots” Album Review

Blues & Roots by Charles Mingus, 1960

Album: Blues & Roots

Artist: Charles Mingus

Year: 1960

Genre: Post-Bop

Grade: A

Blues & Roots is driven entirely by Charles Mingus’ double bass. The music is earthy and soulful — the type of jazz that compels you to dance. Coerced by critics who thought his music didn’t swing enough, Blues & Roots is an exploration of Mingus’ early childhood in California, taking a tour through musical modes that include gospel, spirituals, Dixieland and, of course, the blues.

The album opens with “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” a full-bodied 6/8 stomp in the vein of “Better Git It in Your Soul.” It’s a perfect tone-setter for the album, featuring handclaps and hoarse, wordless exhortations that push the ensemble onward. The remaining five songs follow suit: thumping bass, high-energy improvisation and an overall convivial attitude not often found in Mingus’ work.

Even though a couple songs are re-workings from Mingus Ah Um, Blues and Roots remains a cohesive work of art that stands among Mingus’ best works. It’s certainly his most fun album — just listen to “My Jelly Roll Soul” if you ever need to put a smile on your face.

“Blues & Roots” Album Review

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