Jim Mings is easily one of our greatest treasures. He is a beautiful cat inside and out, an encyclopedia of jazz songs, a brilliant guitarist, and one of the most interesting improvisers you’ll experience. Whether he’s playing a standard from the American songbook or a country tune, without fail, it is deep in the pocket and more melodic than you can imagine. His improvisational ideas are truly in the moment, heartfelt, authentic, honest, and soulful. He can play the same song 10,000 times and never repeat himself. Jim Mings is an artist.
Let’s see what he has to say…
What is your earliest memory of developing a love for jazz music?
I was born in 1949 in Gladewater, Texas. The key word is developed. My love for the music grew as I experienced it. I started playing seriously in 7th grade when my family moved from East Texas to Austin. I was aware of jazz, but it was more the blues and folk sides of jazz. Radio had yet to be programmed by 3 guys in New Jersey, so we heard lots of different music.
Where did you study music?
I have had a number of important teachers. The legendary Wayne Wood was my first musical mentor. I was extremely lucky because Wayne heard something in me. I started performing in public with this great man when I was 12. It wasn’t jazz, but we played tunes like Perfidia and Moonglow and I played the melody and learned to accompany others. About that time I heard Johnny Richardson and he became an important mentor. In high school I took lessons from Dal Farris in Austin. He hipped me to Johnny Smith and chord melody. I went to college at UT Austin and met Dick Goodwin and Donovan Young. I’ve got several good books in me about those grand gentlemen. Johnny Helms was so important to me…So many mentors I have had. That is the way it works and it is a work in progress.
Is there a story behind your latest composition or recording? Where can we find it?
I write every day, usually with Band in a Box or some sort of groove maker. I post the ones I really like on Soundcloud and Facebook. I have several CD’s out that are available in all the usual places.
What is your favorite tune to play and why?
I love good music. It is impossible to name a favorite, but I will say I love to dig deep into tunes so that I can hear them when I put the guitar down.
How long have you been performing in Columbia?
I moved to Columbia in 1976.
Do you have a favorite venue in Columbia?
Wherever I am in the moment.
What other cities, states, and countries have you played in and how do those experiences compare with Columbia, SC?
Well, I grew up in Austin and experienced the 60’s and 70’s there so I understand where Columbia is headed. I played all over Texas in high school. I was always in successful bands. In college we went to eastern Europe, Chicago, Memphis and Latin America. Columbia is growing into a more sophisticated metropolis, slowly but surely.
What is your most memorable experience as an artist?
I wouldn’t know where to start with this one. I see an evolution where the big moments accumulate into experience that one can tap into for inspiration.
What music genres and/or artists influence your style and approach and why?
BLUES, folk, classical, American standard song, world music, etc. Jazz is omnivorous.
Who is your favorite Jazz artist?
Can’t really go there either. So many…
Who would you give credit to as your mentor(s)?
People talk about being influenced by the greats, but I believe we are more influenced by the music and players we actually play with. So everybody, I have ever played with. 😉
What is the best advice you ever received as a musician?
Keep it swingin’. Go beyond what you think you know. What music is on the other side of your personal cliches. To play jazz you need to be able to make better melodies than the written ones. This is a hard one.
What is some advice or statements you’d like to offer to up-and-coming musicians, your peers, live music venues and/or the community in general?
The big reward is the music itself. If money is what you are seeking, it is easier to obtain in many other fields. That said, if you have extra please share it.
Music is a way of communicating and connecting with people. What are your thoughts on this? What are some ideals and values you’d like to reflect in your music?
So practice less in public and play for real. If you don’t have the music memorized, don’t play it in public. No Real Books.
How often do you practice or give time to your craft?
I’m into it waking and sleeping. I try to have instrument in hand 4 or 5 hours a day. This is the luxury I have. I am very fortunate!
Tell me about your band and how everyone came together or about the musicians you usually play with.
I have a partnership with Monty Craig, the fine guitarist, that I treasure. Otherwise, I am a freelancer. I love solo guitar.
What are some ways that we can expose younger generations to Jazz? What are your ideas on how you can help grow the scene?
All you can do is to work the field, practice, and try to make the music irresistible.
What does the Columbia, SC jazz scene do well and what does it need to do better?
Columbia has produced several world class players. It would be great for them to stay here, but as yet, the stakes are much higher in NY and elsewhere, so Carolina is just a stepping stone. What if it were a viable destination?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Jazz has a small, fractional share of the musical market. So, musicians, don’t try to educate your listeners. Entertain them with beautiful music.
I’d like to see a profile of Monty Craig, even though he is upstate.