…”Two years before Ellington died, in 1972, Yale University held a gathering of leading black jazz musicians in order to raise money for a department of African-American music. Aside from Ellington, the musicians who came for three days of concerts, jam sessions, and workshops included Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Mary Lou Williams, and Willie (the Lion) Smith. During a performance by a Gillespie-led sextet, someone evidently unhappy with this presence on campus called in a bomb threat. The police attempted to clear the building, but Mingus refused to leave, urging the officers to get all the others out but adamantly remaining onstage with his bass. “Racism planted that bomb, but racism ain’t strong enough to kill this music,” he was heard telling the police captain. (And very few people successfully argued with Mingus.) “If I’m going to die, I’m ready. But I’m going out playing ‘Sophisticated Lady.’ ” Once outside, Gillespie and his group set up again. But coming from inside was the sound of Mingus intently playing Ellington’s dreamy thirties hit, which, that day, became a protest song, as the performance just kept going on and on and getting hotter. In the street, Ellington stood in the waiting crowd just beyond the theatre’s open doors, smiling.” ♦
On March 28th, 2014, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performed works by Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington.
“By spotlighting music from both artists’ enormous oeuvres in a single program, the orchestra shed light on the similarities of jazz giants often perceived as contrasting figures.
…Mingus’ music surely builds on Ellington’s precedents (as does almost everything in jazz), vigorously developing its harmonic, rhythmic and tonal vocabularies. The centerpiece here was Ron Westray’s arrangement of four pieces from Mingus’ “Tijuana Moods” album, the orchestra riding the twists and turns of this tremendously ornate music with considerable technical elan. Marsalis’ whirring, high-register trumpet flurries on “Dizzy Moods,” Elliot Mason’s lusty trombone exhortations in “Los Mariachis” and Victor Goines’ muscular tenor saxophone solo in “Ysabel’s Table Dance” stood out.
But, ultimately, it was the riot of sound that the ensemble produced, while somehow making sure that the motifs of individual orchestral sections rang out, that represented the greatest feat of this performance. That the band also looked at Mingus’ introspective side, in a warmly whispered version of his “Self-Portrait in Three Colors,” deepened one’s appreciation for the composer’s range and the performers’ sensitivity to it.”