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.