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Charles Mingus-"Pussy Cat Dues" from "Mingus Ah Um"

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Published on Sep 25, 2012

Mingus Ah Um was the first album Charles Mingus recorded for Columbia Records and released in 1959.

Mingus Ah Um is "an extended tribute to ancestors", and Mingus's musical forebears figure largely throughout. "Better Git It In Your Soul" is inspired by gospel singing and preaching of the sort that Mingus would have heard as a child growing up in Watts, while "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is a reference to saxophonist Lester Young (who had died shortly before the album was recorded). "Boogie Stop Shuffle" is a twelve-bar blues with four themes and a boogie bass backing that passes from stop time to shuffle and back.

"Self-Portrait in Three Colors" was originally written for John Cassavetes' first film as director, Shadows, but was never used. "Open Letter to Duke" is a tribute to Duke Ellington, and draws on Mingus's earlier pieces. "Jelly Roll" is a reference to jazz pioneer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton; "Bird Calls," in Mingus' own words, was not a reference to bebop legend Charlie "Bird" Parker: "It wasn't supposed to sound like Charlie Parker. It was supposed to sound like birds - the first part."

"Fables of Faubus" is named after Orval E. Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas infamous for his 1957 stand against integration of Little Rock, Arkansas schools in defiance of U.S. Supreme Court rulings. It is sometimes claimed that Columbia refused to allow the lyrics to be included on this album, though the liner notes to the 1998 reissue of the album state that the piece started life as an instrumental, and only gained the lyrics later.

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