“The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife are Some Jiveass Slippers” is the first track off of Mingus’s 1972 Let My Children Hear Music, which he described in the thank you section of his liner notes as “the best album [he] ever made.” Pianist Sy Johnson provided orchestration and arrangement for Mingus’s tremendously ambitious and far-reaching composition, which features a big band including upper woodwinds, mallet percussion, and timpani, in addition to the more traditional trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and rhythm section.
The piece itself showcases not only Mingus’s excellent melody and harmony writing, but also his tasteful utilization of large-scale collective improvisation (which is particularly notable around eight minutes into this nine-and-a-half minute epic, after an accelerando and the rhythm section dropping out). The piece also runs the gamut of tempos, successfully keeping a swinging feeling throughout. [Perhaps I ought to mention Teo Macero’s role in producing Let My Children Hear Music here. Macero also produced Mingus’s The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew (to name just a couple examples) both of which feature heavy editing done in the studio. Macero was so great at what he did, it’s sometimes difficult to determine when he cut different takes together or moved sections of music around; it’s definitely possible things were liberally rearranged in this piece].
While much can be said about “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife,” I’ll let the music and Mr. Mingus speak for themselves. The link below will lead you to a jazz forum where some kind soul typed out Mingus’s essay from the liner of Let My Children Hear Music, and the video is “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife are Some Jiveass Slippers” in full. Both are spectacular.