Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a Charles Mingus jazz standard, first recorded by his band in 1959, and since then performed by many others, with voice and without. The version closest to my heart is a Jeff Beck electric-guitar instrumental. [Wait, didn’t you have one of those yesterday!? -Ed.] [You say that like it’s a bad thing. -T] The song was originally conceived of as a tribute to Lester Young, a saxophonist, recently deceased back then, who had worn one.
I’ve loved Mingus’ music since I first heard it. He always had a big band and their big showpieces always involved playing really loud and really fast; as close as jazz ever gets to head-bangin’ metal music. I wrote a blog piece about Better Get Hit In Your Soul, one of those loud/fast numbers, and generally about the album it’s on, Mingus at Antibes, which I’ve always thought to be his masterpiece (but Pork Pie Hat is on Mingus Ah Um from 1959, another totally excellent recording.)
Jeff Beck’s version is on Wired from 1976, which might just be the best all-guitar-instrumentals collection ever recorded by anyone, with the possible exception of Blow by Blow, his previous album, which we visited yesterday. Pork Pie Hat is one of the highlights on Wired.
It’s not hard to start a food fight about “greatest guitarist ever” — I mean, what’s the best flavor of ice cream anyway? — but Beck’s name is always going to be in that conversation. And this record will be offered as evidence evidence.
The recording has some irritating tape hiss, but get past that and it’s the kind of thing you want to dim the lights for, lean back and turn the stereo up as loud as you can get away with.
Links · Spotify playlist. For the original Mingus version: Spotify, Amazon, iTunes. For the Beck version: Spotify, Amazon, iTunes. Video links; Mingus in 1975, Part 1 (after a couple of minutes of getting organized), Part 2; the band includes Dannie Richmond and Gerry Mulligan. And here’s a muscular version by Jeff in 2002. Finally, here’s Joni Mitchell with her all-star band notably including Pastorius, putting words to the music.