Philadelphia, Bijou Cafe, 20 Mar 1973

22 Mar 1973
Philadelphia Inquirer
Jack Lloyd
Charles Mingus, Folksinger Fill the Bill

Of The Inquirer Staff

Charles Mingus, that self-styled grand lover of them all (according to his book, that is)1 and highly heralded jazz bassist-composer, is once again back out of hiding and doing business at the Bijou Cafe.

Joining Mingus, in what might seem to be an odd booking -on the surface, at least- is a young man from Scotland named John Martyn, who comes to these shores billed as a folksinger.

Charles Mingus and a Scottish folksinger on the same bill? Okay, the billing seems somewhat unlikely, to put it mildly. Except it really isn't all that outlandish.

MINGUS, of course, is one of the grand figures of so-called progressive jazz. His music is not easy. He is a man you must do business with on his terms, and his terms are often rather trying.

Folk music, by traditional standards, is the simple, uncluttered form with which a man can identify quickly. It is, after all, the music of the folks.

Not quite so simple with John Martyn, though. His new album for Island Records, Solid Air, is one of the more complex items on the market these days. His stage performance at the Bijou -where he and Mingus are appearing through Saturday night- is not nearly as elaborate as the record, since he is accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar.

Yet his music is several cuts above the average 'folksinger'. The elements of jazz and rock abound in this display of sophisticated music that at times seems one or two steps ahead of its times.

YOU DON'T CLASSIFY Martyn with the likes of Joan Baez or any of the others who were born during the folk boom. He is in a class by himself. At times, John Martyn comes across as a spaced-out folk performer. His music is not always exciting but it is never dull. John Martyn should be heard. He has something to pass on.

And so this acoustic act nicely sets the stage for the music of Charles Mingus and his group. Mingus, too, is hardly your ordinary musician. A pace-setter in jazz circles, his music has a downright incoherent quality at times.

But stay with Mingus and his band. Listen carefully. Okay, so much of it is beyond comprehension. But the good stuff keeps floating to the surface. And the good stuff is worth hearing.

1 Mingus' autobiography Beneath The Underdog (1971) 'goes into great detail about his perhaps overstated sexual exploits'.
Funny how the supporting act drew more attention of the critic than the main artist. This rare review was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer of Thursday 22 March 1973.

Related to: