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Houston Press: Jazz’s Five Great Protest Songs

Excerpt from The Houston Press:

Charles Mingus, “Original Fables of Faubus”
In 1957, then-Gov. Orval Faubus ignored a unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court by ordering the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Little Rock Nine from legally entering a newly desegregated school. The absurdity of the event, placing military guards armed to the teeth in order to keep unarmed teenagers from lawfully entering school, drew the ire from many public officials, but the most razing attack came from one of jazz’s most innovative bassists, Charles Mingus.

Featured on Candid Records, the “Original Fables of Faubus” remains one of jazz’s most sardonically crafted songs today. It cheekily pokes fun at Faubus’ finer fascist features with a call-and-response approach: “Name me someone ridiculous, Dannie?/ Governor Faubus!/ Why’s he so sick and ridiculous?/ Because he won’t permit integrated schools!/ Well, he’s a fool!”

As Mingus howls his last response without mincing his words, he reminds us that Faubus wasn’t the only public official responsible. Eisenhower and Rockefeller shared the maligned governor’s shame by turning a blind eye to the events, attempting to minimize the stakes on a national scope. Echoes of “Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)” resonate today given the current state of racial politics. From a historical point of view, it wasn’t that long ago; moreover, it also reminds us that there is still much to be discussed.

Read the full article here

Leader of Peabody Jazz Orchestra talks about value of playing in big band

New York–based drummer Devin Gray says that a large-ensemble job he picked up over the summer was like many paying gigs: Show up and then find out who you’re playing with and what you’re playing. Some of the music was that of Charles Mingus, which Gray knew from his undergraduate days playing in a large ensemble that at the time was called the Peabody Big Band. “So I show up 5 minutes before the show, set up, and the leader’s just handing out tunes” on sheet music, says Gray, who graduated from the Peabody Institute’s Jazz Studies Department in 2006. “Three of them were Mingus tunes—and two of them, I remembered the whole arrangement. And when I was playing those tunes I could remember playing in the [Peabody] big band. And I was like, Whoa—I know this music.” …

Read the full article here:

http://hub.jhu.edu/gazette/2014/november-december/datebook-peabody-jazz-story#

Reviews: Mingus Big Band at Ronnie Scott’s, Oct 20-25, 2014

Thank you to Ronnie Scott’s for hosting a great week of Mingus music in London!

The Telegraph (click for link)

“Profound… The moments when the band came together were the most fascinating, because you could see anarchy and tight discipline rubbing shoulders… Holding these things in balance is bound to stir up unruly emotions, not at all of them bright. Sometimes it seemed as if the sheer intensity on that stage could spill over into a fist-fight. That feeling carries us back to something primordial in jazz, which is why these annual visits by the Mingus Big Band have become a fixture in the jazz-lover’s calendar.”

London Jazz News (click for link)

A great tradition has been invented: this time of year has become synonymous with the Mingus Big Band spending a week at Ronnie Scott’s.  Impressive display of interplay and remarkable improvisational talent present all evening.”

Jazzwise Magazine (click for link)

“The 14-piece ensemble that plays the music of Charles Mingus is a big beast of an orchestra that roars mightily but knows how to seductively purr when revealing the wry sensitivity that was also an integral part of the great bassist-pianist-composer’s psyche. “

Mingus Big Band mentioned in New York Times

Mingus Big Band (through Monday) A 2011 Grammy winner for “Live at Jazz Standard,” this repertory band has held a Monday-night residency here for years. It also plays this weekend, filling in for a last-minute cancellation — and building as always on the rugged sophistication of Charles Mingus’s music, which still has the capacity to sound radical. At 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th Street, Manhattan, 212-576-2232, jazzstandard.net; $25 and $30. (Chinen)