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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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One of Joni Mitchell's finest albums, a collaborative tribute to jazz composer/band leader and bassist, Charles Mingus.

I remember when this album came out – Charles Fox played a track from it on “Jazz Today” - where I first heard it - and the jazz press was very favourable in their reviews. Coming from a jazz background myself – and being a Mitchell fan too, I've never had any problem appreciating this; it was an influential album for many musicians and is regarded now as an important recording within Mitchell's period of experimentation with jazz influences – something that broke down many artificial barriers that existed between forms at the time.
The band Mitchell put together for this project provide exemplary support and interaction; her connection with Mingus too, is important to note – he was not an easy artist to work with and would not have sanctioned a project he wasn't happy with – that he gave Mitchell his blessing on this speaks volumes and his judgement was absolutely right.
I'm actually quite surprised at the negativity of some reviews on this page; this is no misfire; Mitchell's original pieces are eminently memorable, and her words – set to Mingus` compositions – are as good as anything she's ever written - “Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat” is a particular favourite, if I have to choose.
The only problems I have with it are that it ends too soon, and there are fewer of Mitchell's paintings reproduced in the CD notes than were reproduced (in good size) on the original gate-fold LP.

An album I consider an indispensable part of my music collection.
Check out the sound samples above; the disc has a running time of just over 37 minutes.
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on 10 February 2017
I never owned this album at the time (1979) due to the slating it got from critics and Joni's fans and I'm not a great fan of jazz per se. She wasted 10 years trying to make a pop album and get a hit after this, before finally getting back to relying on her natural creative instinct. Well, I finally got round to trying it and I like it plenty. Mingus could no longer play like he used to due to failing health but here and there are flashes of his genius. Joni compensates and clearly was still inspired by working with him. Her voice as superb as ever and she can really handle jazz technique. The only low points are Mingus' pointless and indulgent spoken "raps" between the tracks, but fortunately these only last a few seconds each. I guess the idea was to lend a spontaneous feel, but all they do is interrupt the flow. A keeper and just right when you're in the mood for it.
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on 9 June 2012
A real gem of an album, Some tracks wonderfully interspersed with conversations with Mingus. Jaco Pastorius's creative bass playing is much in evidence and a joy to hear. Some of the tracks have the influence of the earlier Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, but all tracks are unique. I'm not a fan of blaring Brass line-ups but it's use in Dry Cleaner works perfectly. A mixture of tempo's, possibly not an album to relax to, but a pure delight to listen to. When it ended I just wanted more.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 May 2015
This 1979 album saw the full development of Joni Mitchell's jazz experiments. Approached by jazz great Charles Mingus unexpectedly Joni was offered four original instrumentals to weave her lyrical magic onto and also picked "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" from the Mingus back catalogue. This was Mingus' last hurrah, he saw something in Joni which had her paddling in uncharted waters and stretching for something different. All five tracks are contained here, plus "God Must Be A Boogieman" completed by Mitchell alone after Mingus' death and the only track he didn't get to hear. The six tracks are padded out with five 'rap' tracks, in effect verité speech recordings featuring Mingus himself. But the quality of the six tracks stands out. In the liner notes Mitchell acknowledges this was a tough project, recording each song in four different sessions with jazz greats such as Tony Williams which didn't make the final album. But versions including two of Williams' old bandmates Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter do. And together with the superb fretless bass of Jaco Pastorious which is a major feature of this album they add depth to this work which rewards deeper listening. Mitchell's guitar work is exemplary throughout, notably on "The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey". Particular favourite is "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines", the only truly upbeat track in an album of great depth. This probably isn't the place to start if you are getting into Joni's music, it's a work that requires a few listens to 'get it'. Since I've began to understand more about jazz I appreciate this album even more. An experiment that works.
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‘Mingus’ was a collaborative project between Joni Mitchell and jazz composer/band leader Charles Mingus. This music represents Mingus’ final act of musical creativity prior to his death in January 1979 at the age of 56 (Charlie suffered in his later years from ALS, the same disease which afflicts astrophysicist Stephen Hawking). The album title was Joni’s tribute to the great jazzman who died prior to the project’s completion.

Most of the music was composed by Mingus, with Mitchell responsible two songs only and writing/singing the lyrics for the rest. Virtuoso jazzmen Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius (as on ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’) are joined here by Herbie Hancock, no ordinary sidemen who bring their unique individual styles to the party and contribute in no small measure to the resulting soundscape. Jaco in particular is here on top form.

This music is among the most experimental and ‘difficult’ of Joni’s long career, and rewards repeat listening to get the fully immersive experience. If you already know and appreciate ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ and even ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’ then you’re halfway there; ‘Mingus’ however takes jazz experimentation even further.

The album is not without Joni’s trademark humour and contains some good, classically structured songs, the most memorable ‘The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines’, the excellent ‘God Must be a Boogie Man’ and the spacey ‘A Chair in the Sky.’

‘Mingus’ may take more time to warm to than most of Joni’s work, but the result is well worth it.
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on 5 May 2007
You really couldn't imagine a better combination than this. Joni Mitchell's sublime vocal skills and a band that is essentially Weather Report, but with Herbie Hancock instead of Joe Zawinul. And yet it doesn't work. Try as she might, Joni only ever sounds like she's trying to emulate Billie Holiday - but wihout the pain. The album is redeemed from oblivion by the sublime and lyrical bass of Pastorius and glimpses of Hancock and Shorter while Joni draws breath. The up tempo Dry Cleaner from Des Moines, much better suited to Joni's delivery works well. Nothing else does. If you liked Blue, Court and Spark, Ladies of the Canyon, try Hejira, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. You'll be disappointed by this.
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on 17 September 2015
I have recently been listening again to this late 1970's Joni Mitchell album following my receiving the lovely Bread & Roses feestival CD. They are both from the same era and this studio effort from Joni really benefits from some re - appreciation as it was treated somewhat unfairly upon release but although a little challenging is actually a superb and very listenable collection of songs - inspired by the wonderful jazz musician Charlie Mingus.who also features
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on 28 May 2016
Well, I don't hate it and would rather give it no stars as I don't think I can really review it other that to say that from start to end I just did not understand what the hell it was about. Not Joni's fault. I am sure she tried to construct a tribute to Charlie Mingus which she obviously has huge respect for. Better in my mind to listen to the original records.
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on 29 April 2016
This is not up to her usual interesting standard.
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on 12 May 2015
This is no easy ride for someone who loves Joni's music. It was a departure even from her jazz- influenced albums that preceded it. I have to say it took me a very long time before I could even like it much but like all her music it does grow on you.
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