Imogen Ryall Sings the Charles Mingus / Joni Mitchell Songbook

September 2023

‘Mingus’, the album by Joni Mitchell from 1975 is the result of a 45-minute meeting arranged by Mingus’s wife between Mitchell, who was drifting towards a style of music jazzier than her previous output and Charles Mingus. Mingus was sadly waiting to die from motor neurons disease. Unable to play, he was bored, and his wife was keen to get him interested in something. Mingus sang the melodies into a tape recorder, chords were added by Sy Johnson, and Joni wrote the lyrics and organised the recording sessions. The band on the album were members of Weather Report. Mingus died before the project was complete. To ensure enough material was ready for the album, Joni added a song of her own ‘Wolf’. The album was cooly received by admirers of both musicians. The album now has a cult status, especially among younger jazz musicians. Among them British singer Imogen Ryall considers ‘Mingus’ the foundation stone and springboard of her career. ‘A door opener for me’ is how Imogen describes the original album. Her album is an affectionate tribute to these two great musicians whose collaboration produced an enigmatic album that challenged the critics and listeners of the day. Imogen’s album offers three views of Mingus – ‘Chair in the Sky’ captures him at the end. Wasting away but retaining an unrepentant good humour. ’God Must Be a Boogie Man’ is Joni having fun with the concept. ‘Self Portrait in Three Colours’, originally a through composed instrumental ballad, to which Imogen adds her own thoughtful and perceptive lyrics. In arguably the most eloquent comment ever made on the impact music has, the 19th century German novelist Berthold Auerbach said, ‘Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’. Listen to Imogen Ryall. Get clean.


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