“Anyone could play “Meditations” on that day in this time of ours when everyone is fighting everyone else all over the world. Man, woman, religious sects, people in general, colors. I felt like I was playing for god. Well, it’s time people get together and try to fight their way through to love with something that warms them and brings them together. Look what you’re doing! Look how sad you make me feel! I do have a freedom here in this society, even though it is limited” - Charles Mingus on the liner notes for “Mingus at Monterey”, 1964

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This photo is really important to me. Myles took it on my camera while I read out those words of Mingus’, right before we recorded our version of “Meditations”. This is the penultimate moment before the completion of the first stage of this project, something that took me eighteen months to build up to, and something I’ll remember for a long time.

Charles Mingus’ music has been my main inspiration for a couple years now, and my favourite of his works is a piece titled alternately “Meditations on Integration”, “Meditation for a Pair of Wire Cutters” or “Praying With Eric”, that was first recorded at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1964. You can hear this performance on YouTube, or if you do a I did, and stumble across the vinyl by chance at a record store. For those interested, there is a great article written by Adam Shatz that goes into far more detail about Mingus’ music and life (and Meditations) but I will borrow one paragraph here in this blog.

In Mingus’s mind, “Meditations” belonged as much to Dolphy as it did to him. “Eric Dolphy explained to me that there was something similar to the concentration camps once in Germany now down South,” he said at Town Hall, “and the only difference between the electric barbed wire is that they don’t have gas chambers and hot stoves to cook us in yet. So I wrote a piece called ‘Meditations’ as to how to get some wire cutters before someone gets some guns to us.”

Nowhere is Mingus’s emotional range on such brilliant display as in “Meditations.” Integration had been his own struggle since his childhood in Watts. The destruction of segregation was unfinished business, and it was violent. The more extreme, cacophonous parts of his piece should sound like “organized chaos,” he told the Workshop. He asked them to reimagine the sounds that the slave ships must have made during the Middle Passage; he spoke to them as if they were actors. “You’re…like a minister in church or a Jewish rabbi,” he told the trumpeter Bobby Bryant in Monterey. “Everybody’s shouting at you. You have to chant to them and put them back in condition.” In the Town Hall performance, Mingus exploits almost every possible combination in his sextet. In the first ten minutes alone, the full sextet gives way to ruminative unaccompanied piano; then to a somber duet for piano and bowed bass; then back to unaccompanied piano; and finally to a sorrowful adagio passage for piano, bass and Dolphy’s flute, before the horn section erupts again with volcanic force.

I was thrilled to be able to record a version of Meditations (amongst other pieces) with a band that featured many of my favourite people and musicians at Rolling Stock Studios with Myles Mumford last weekend.

L-R: Cheryl Durongpisitkul, Oscar Neyland, James Macaulay, Hannes Lackmann, Dan Sheehan, Flora Carbo, Reuben Lewis, Chloe Kim, Adam Halliwell, Shaun Rammers.

L-R: Cheryl Durongpisitkul, Oscar Neyland, James Macaulay, Hannes Lackmann, Dan Sheehan, Flora Carbo, Reuben Lewis, Chloe Kim, Adam Halliwell, Shaun Rammers.

Projects like this give you a great opportunity to bring together people in a new setting and this was no different. The core sextet of this group is a rhythm section of myself, Hannes Lackmann on drums and Adam Halliwell on guitar (and some flute!), both of whom I play with in Adam’s group “The First Baboon Civilisation”. The horns comprise of Cheryl Durongpisitkul (who also plays in my “Blue Rose” project) on alto sax, Shaun Rammers on tenor, and Flora Carbo on a mix of alto sax and bass clarinet. This sextet recorded three further Mingus pieces and two by Mal Waldron on Sunday the 10th of Feb, before being joined by four more musicians on Monday to record “Meditations”.

The most important connection in jazz (from the perspective of a bassist) is that with the drummer, so when you get two drummers going at once who understand where the music is headed it’s a real joy. Chloe Kim - who I met through Australian Art Orchestra - arrived from Sydney and came straight into the studio. Chloe and I had played “Meditations” together on a trip I did to Sydney last year, but she and Hannes only met on the day of the recording. It is a massive testament to the size of Chloe and Hannes’ ears that they sounded so wonderful playing together so quickly.

Also added were Reuben Lewis on trumpet, Dan Sheehan on piano and James Macaulay on trombone, all wonderful musicians that I’ve played with in other projects in my time in Melbourne.

Figuring out how to do this project has been a massive learning curve. The understanding, transcribing and arranging of the pieces, along with organising the people and learning how to direct them to play the way I want (without diminishing their individual voice) has taken me the best part of the last eighteen months. With the recordings done and awaiting mixing, my plan is to take a small break from the project and come back with fresh ears and fresh plans about how to release the material. I’ll be posting more throughout all of these stages. If you’re interested, follow me through the social buttons below!


Charles Mingus (photo by Ray Avery/CTS Images)

Charles Mingus (photo by Ray Avery/CTS Images)


This recording is dedicated to Charles Mingus, and also to all those persecuted or dispossessed, divided from community or deprived of freedom.