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Mingus Ah Um

5. Charles Mingus: “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” (Mingus Ah Um; Columbia, 1959)

Mingus Ah Um is far and away Mingus’ most famous recording, and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is perhaps its—and, more broadly, Mingus’—most famous track. Written in homage to saxophone titan Lester Young (and his titular sartorial signature), who had passed away two months before, the tune shows a tenderness and grace that was frequently undervalued in his previous work. Even Mingus’ bass, which could often sound like he was trying to break its strings, is remarkably subtle and muted. The composition itself doesn’t particularly echo Young, but John Handy’s extraordinary tenor solo does. It’s as poignant and beautiful a threnody as jazz ever bred.