About Soul and Gone

 

The name “Soul and Gone” is shamelessly swiped from the great bass player and composer Charles Mingus’s manic, lithium-informed tall tale of an autobiography, Beneath the Underdog.

A section about halfway through the book – one of the seeming few that actually delves into Mingus’s work as a musician, as opposed to his work as an insatiable sex god, incorrigible pimp, anti-racist crusader and bona fide American madman – recounts a gig in the early bop era Mingus played with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Buddy Collette (alto sax), Lucky Thompson (tenor sax), Dodo Marmarosa (piano) and Stan Levey (drums). Mingus and Lucky Thompson, who apparently have no problem conversing over the collective squawk of a horn-heavy bop septet, launch into a spirited discussion of the whiteboy contingent of the rhythm section:

“Go on, Dodo! Man, that ofay sure can play! And that drummer too. What’s his name?”
“Stan Levy. He’s a Jew. You know them Jew boys got the soul and gone.”
“Gone. Take it out.”

Here Mingus hits on one of the great underlying truths of modern jazz: if you played bop in the ’40s and ’50s, you were probably black, but if you weren’t black, you were Jewish, and if you weren’t black or Jewish, you were Italian, and if you weren’t black, Jewish, or Italian, you were Gerry Mulligan. For some reason – and this is one for the sociologists – the Goldbergs and guineas were, for a long time, about the only non-blacks who could keep up with the high-flying harmonics and fleet fingerwork of Bird, Monk and the boys.

So, Israelite that I am, I have decided to take to heart the words of one of my favorite musicians and apply to this blog some of that gone soul we Jews keep inside next to our guilt.

Gone. Take it out.

  13 Responses to “About Soul and Gone”

  1. excellent name—glad to see the new blog…I’ve been wanting to read Mingus’ autobiography since reading his liner notes to the Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Now I got to. My theory about Jews in Jazz (and it works for Italians, I guess, at some level) is that we have the music tradition of klezmer that readily lends itself to the jazz aesthetic…tempo changes, conscious reactions to the other musicians’ playing, etc. I guess it comes down to traditions of ethnic party music. Keep it up

  2. Hey man, good to see you.

    Definitely pick up the book. It starts out with a dialogue between Mingus and the psychiatrist who wrote the Black Saint liner notes, and briefly delves into the whole Jewish thing. Gets a little erratic in other places, but overall, worth the insight at least.

    I’m with you on klezmer, which does have that same streak of improvisation, not to mention a harmonic sensibility outside of the European mainstream. It’s a big part, but I also think it’s significant that Jewish and Italian immigrants were unloved by American society and, for a time, not even considered white. So when you consider that sociological reality in light of their preexisting musical aptitude, perhaps the jazz thing isn’t so surprising.

  3. Hi Soul and Gone,
    I am making a film which contains a part from “Songs for Eeleel” by Tchernichovsky. I need to add english subtitles, and i thought maybe i can use your poetry skills to translate it? it would be a great help for me.

    greetings from Israel,
    Amit

  4. Hi Amit,

    I’d be happy to help. Can you send me the original poem? michaelyaari at gmail.

  5. Hey soul and gone,

    What a great blog! I came across it when i was looking for a better translation to Ibn Gvirol’s Katav Stav, as i didn’t really get much out of the original translation that i found. I’m an Israeli-Australian poet (and ecologist, but that’s another story) in Australia. I’d like to follow your blog but don’t see an option to. Unless i get emails sent to me when you post something new, it will hardly happen that i’ll just remember to check. May i recommend that you add in an option for people to subscribe via email?

    All the best and shavua tov

    Keren

  6. Ahoy Keren,

    Always nice to see a new reader from Oz. Between the Canadians, the Brits and the ANZACs, I think I get more steady readers from the Commonwealth than I do from my own native land. You all must have a better poetry curriculum.

    I hope my Katav Stav didn’t disappoint – I imagine you probably found Peter Cole’s one, and for all the great work he’s done in the field, it was my dissatisfaction with Peter Cole’s Andalusi poetry translations that inadvertently launched me down the road to Hebrew poetry translation.

    Also, truly a historic day: somebody asking me to help me spam their inbox. I’m terrible at self-promotion, but you’ll see I’ve added a “Follow Me” box up on the sidebar which should contain all the various ways to pursue my online meanderings.

    Thanks for the kind words, shavua tov, and do please keep reading.

  7. Wow! I’ve been searching since being amazed by the Cairo Geniza, though my Hebrew language skills very limited, and led in many directions to biblical poetry, the psalms, secular poetry, the whole amazing Andalusian period, Samuel Hanagid, the middle ages, Immanuel of Rome, and the voices of Israel reborn, like Bialek, so many voices, and no one seems interested but here’s this amazing blog. Thank you.

  8. You’re welcome! You’re right, though; almost no one seems interested. But it’s nice to find one of the few exceptions out there through the ether. Please keep reading!

  9. Thank you for your wonderful blog! The poem about the undesired cheese will live in my heart. Seriously, so much beautiful poetry – I have no academic background or understanding of the language whatsoever so I’m so happy to see this made accessible.

  10. Hi Rosie,

    You’re very kind to say so! Made my damn week. Reaching the uninitiated with all this quixotic translation, that’s the dream. Please keep reading!

  11. All intriguing. I found this through Harvey Richman. Thinking about your Italian Jazz comment, I am taking a class in Medieval world, where during a very excellent lecture about the origin of Italian language the instructor pointed to Frederick II and Sicily and the proximity of Sicily to Africa.

  12. Hello from Minnesota! I’m interested in using a piece of the transliteration of “Et Dodim Kallah” in a work of fiction. Is the transliteration yours? If so, can you please tell me if/how I might use it? Thanks much! Anne Lippin

  13. Jewhooing the 40s and 50s jazz scene we’d have to make honorable mention of Barney Kessel, Stan Getz, Victor Feldman, and Terry Gibbs too!

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