Choosing an album at random to listen to this morning, my finger settled on Mingus by Joni Mitchell, an album that, for me at least, effuses sadness. A collaboration between Mitchell and jazz bassist Charles Mingus recorded in the months leading up to his early death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he did not live to see its completion.

The music, which includes snippets of conversation in which Mingus speculates about his funeral arrangements and whether he will live longer than Duke Ellington, is sparse and experimental and includes Mingus’ tribute to the late Lester Young Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, and whilst Jaco Pastorius‘ arrangement of The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines is full of verve it serves only to underline the tragedy that this great talent would also be lost at the age of 35 in a bar room brawl a few years later.

In my opinion the recordings mark the end of Mitchell’s greatest period of creativity with both the frequency and quality of her output declining from this point onwards.

Seemingly, the beach wished to continue this elegiac mood.  Those who walked the sands were dressed for cooler weather, the skies were grey, and the kite surfers were inactive.  Even when they choose to move their great sails they didn’t seem to jump for joy.

Against this background I spotted John, an elderly man, sitting alone, staring out over the subdued vista below him through barely opened eyes.  He agreed to be photographed readily enough, and then went on his way, still alone.

There’s comfort in melancholy
When there’s no need to explain
It’s just as natural as the weather
In this moody sky today

Joni Mitchell, Hejira

 

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One thought on “Uneasy listening

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