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 Friday, 27 November 2015
Mingus Big Band Birthday Celebration, Coast to Coast, April 22nd - 27th PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Monday, 21 April 2008

Charles Mingus

"Mingus's music doesn't merely deserve to be heard; jazz needs it." -- The New York Times

Every Tuesday night, one of the Mingus legacy bands takes over the bandstand at the Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan to celebrate and promote the music of legendary bassist Charles Mingus. On April 22nd, the Mingus Big Band further honors the 86th birthday of a man of divergent, often controversial tastes and a singular mission to create music. The celebration will not be limited to the Iridium, however, as a second edition of the Mingus Big Band will perform at Yoshi’s in San Francisco as well on April 22nd, then move to across the Bay to Oakland, April 24-27. Additional Mingus celebrations will be broadcast on Radio WKCR and Sirius.

Born on April 22, 1922, Charles Mingus was one of the most fascinating and controversial characters in the history of jazz, and one of the genre’s true innovators. Raised in the Watts section of Los Angeles, he evolved his unique style in the 1950s while playing with such giants as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington; he became one of the first bassists to serve as bandleader. Borrowing ideas from free jazz while retaining a tonal approach, his work encompassed the roots of swing, bop, blues and African music in a way that separated him from the avant garde musicians of his time. A man of broad interests and social concerns, Mingus brought a whirlwind of influences to his compositions, yet often at the core of his complex works were some of the most enduring melodies in modern jazz. Working with small ensembles as well as big bands, Mingus often excluded the piano, bringing a greater role to the bass, although he was also an accomplished pianist himself. His writings also set new directions for the development of big band music. Mingus was well known for his efforts to promote new musicians and their compositions through his “Jazz Workshop.” After his death, the National Endowment for the Arts helped fund a Mingus foundation, "Let My Children Hear Music," which catalogued all of Mingus' works that were then given to the Music Division of the New York Public Library, the first time such a collection of jazz works was made available to the public for study.

Mingus Big Band
After Charles’ death in 1979 due to ALS, his wife Sue Mingus created and directed several repertory ensembles dedicated to the legacy of Mingus’ music, including the septet Mingus Dynasty, the Mingus Big Band, and the Mingus Orchestra; she continues to lead the bands and has produced several recordings. The Mingus Orchestra (usually a 10-piece ensemble) focuses on composition, expanded repertory, and exotic instrumentation, including bassoon, bass clarinet, French horn and guitar. The 14-piece Mingus Big Band tours extensively in the United States and abroad, and has released nine recordings, three of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards. Since the bassist’s death in 1979, the bands have presented over 100 musicians, featured over 20 guest artists, and premiered at least 100 of Mingus's 320 compositions.

Geroge ColliganİAndrea Canter
The success of the Mingus legacy bands in part is due to the continuously revolving cast of musicians, ensembles that include some of the most acclaimed artists in modern jazz as well as rising stars and first-call performers. Scheduled to perform with the Mingus Big Band at the Iridium on April 22nd are: Lew Soloff, Earl Gardner and Kenny Rampton (trumpets); Marcus Strickland, Jaleel Shaw, Vincent Herring, Steve Slagle and Lauren Sevian or Ronnie Cuber (saxophones); Conrad Herwig, Clark Gayton and Dave Taylor (trombones); Gene Jackson (drums); Boris Kozlov (bass); and George Colligan (piano).

Out west, the parallel edition of the big band at Yoshi’s will include Alex Sipiagin, Vitaly Golovnev and Greg Gisbert (trumpets); Craig Handy, Wayne Escoffery, Mark Gross, Abraham Burton and Jason Marshall (saxophones); Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Andy Hunter and Earl McIntyre (trombones); Donald Edwards (drums); Ugonna Okegwo (bass); and Kenny Drew, Jr. (piano).

As an annual component of the Mingus Birthday Celebration, New York Radio WKCR (89.9 FM) will host its annual 24-hour Mingus broadcast. Also this year, Sirius celebrates the birth of Charles Mingus with music curated by Sue Mingus. Every hour, throughout the day on April 22nd, listeners will hear a Mingus tune and Sue Mingus will explain the significance of each, starting at 6 am to 12 midnight EDT.

Boris KoslozİAndrea Canter

The Mingus legacy bands have held a long-term residency at the Iridium. You can catch the Big Band, Orchestra or Dynasty septet in Manhattan every Tuesday night at 8:30 and 10:30 pm. In the Bay Area, the last week in April will be a less frequent treat! And if you can’t be there live, tune in to Radio WKCR or Sirius on April 22nd for a day of Mingus music!

The Iridium is located at 1650 Broadway at 51st Street; Mingus legacy band schedule for April: April 8th –Big Band; April 15th – Mingus Dynasty; April 22nd—Big Band Birthday Celebration; April 29th—Big Band or Orchestra, TBD. The Big Band will also perform on April 12th at SUNY Purchase. In the Bay Area, the Mingus Big Band performs at Yoshi’s in San Francisco on April 22nd, moving to Yoshi’s in Oakland April 24-27—visit

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