“Mongo. Santa Maria!”

Jazz doesn’t come easily to me but it is rewarding: for what I put in to it – my listening, my concentration – I seem to get a lot out of it. Put a gun to my dome and demand my favourite jazz tune ever, it would probably be ‘Afro Blue’ as performed by the John Coltrane Quartet at Birdland in 1963. It’s one of those tunes of which I never get tired:

And this is pretty great too…

And Esperanza Spalding, Erykah Badu and others have done it too.

The point being that your heart sinks when you hear of the release of a film that’s a ‘parody’. That’s normally a byword for laziness and just phoning it in; of French & Saunders making a career out of ripping off various things only, ha-ha, look at big Dawn playing that role: that’s funny, in and of itself, right?; and of film-makers just not getting how clever and layered Mel Brooks’ work or the work of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker truly was underneath it all.

When I was little, my father made sure that I watched ‘Blazing Saddles’ and I almost bust a gut laughing, with it still being one of my favourites to this day. Thing is, it wasn’t so long ago that I finally, finally got one of the script’s jokes. When Mongo slowly comes into the town of Rock Ridge, one of the terrified peons stutters: “Mongo. Santa Maria!” in horror. I always took that to mean a kind of ‘Mongo. My God!” exclamation and indeed it is but it’s also a pun and homage to the Afro-Cuban musician Mongo Santamaria, the man who wrote ‘Afro Blue’.


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