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Mingus is the tenth studio album by Joni Mitchell, and a collaboration with jazz musician Charles Mingus. Recorded in the months before his death, it would be Mingus's final musical project; the album is wholly dedicated to him.
The album is quite experimental, featuring minimalist jazz, overplucked, buzzing acoustic guitars, and even wolves howling through "The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey". All of the lyrics are by Mitchell, while the music for four of the songs was composed by Mingus, three being new tunes, a fourth being his tribute to saxophonist Lester Young from his 1959 classic Mingus Ah Um, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", for which Mitchell wrote a set of lyrics.
As with the release preceding, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, Mitchell hired personnel from jazz fusion group Weather Report to play on the sessions. Mingus would also mark the first reunion of saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianist Herbie Hancock in the studio since recording together on Shorter's seminal Native Dancer album, featuring Milton Nascimento, released in September 1974.
The album is spliced with excerpts (labelled "(Rap)") from tape recordings provided by Sue Graham Mingus, including a scat singing interplay between Joni and Mingus, and Charles and Sue arguing over his age at a birthday party. In "Funeral", Mingus and others discuss how long he'll live and what his funeral will be like. He refers to the Vedanta Society and asserts that "I'm going to cut Duke [Ellington]!". "God Must Be a Boogie Man" was the only song Mingus was unable to hear, having taken shape two days after his death; Mitchell posits in the liner notes that Mingus would have found it hilarious.
The artwork features several paintings by Mitchell of Mingus. It peaked at #17 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart.
All lyrics by Joni Mitchell; music by Mitchell, except where indicated
- "Happy Birthday 1975" (Rap) – 0:57
- "God Must Be a Boogie Man" – 4:35
- "Funeral" (Rap) – 1:07
- "A Chair in the Sky" (Charles Mingus) – 6:42
- "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey" – 6:35
- "I's a Muggin'" (Rap) – 0:07
- "Sweet Sucker Dance" – 8:04 (Mingus)
- "Coin in the Pocket" (Rap) – 0:11
- "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines" (Mingus) – 3:21
- "Lucky" (Rap) – 0:04
- "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (Mingus) – 5:37
- Joni Mitchell - guitar, vocals
- Jaco Pastorius - bass, horn arrangement on "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines"
- Wayne Shorter - soprano saxophone
- Herbie Hancock - electric piano
- Peter Erskine - drums
- Don Alias - congas
- Emil Richards - percussion