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Mingus Big Band Review: The London Times

Mingus Big Band at Ronnie Scott’s, W1

Clive Davis
January 27, 2016

The forecasters may not have spotted it, but a hurricane is blowing through central London this week. Yes, the Mingus Big Band is back in residency at what the double bass player Boris Kozlov calls its “second home”.
It’s always possible, I suppose, that one or two expense-account punters venturing out to hear the orchestra for the first time may be under the impression that Charles Mingus himself will be on the bandstand, shouting out instructions in that inimitable voice of his. The scarcely believable truth is that he has been dead for nearly 40 years. But thanks to his widow, Sue, who has supervised his legacy with a shrewd eye, his work has reached an entirely new audience. This ghost band kicks and capers and gives Old Father Time a cheerful v-sign.

The opening set at Ronnie Scott’s struck a perfect balance between exuberance and introversion, the programme veering from the raucous E’s Flat, Ah’s Flat Too to the recently discovered Noonlight, a shimmering theme vaguely reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s The Single Petal of a Rose.

Above all, the musicians, who play a weekly date at the Jazz Standard club in Manhattan, have managed to preserve the aura of workshop spontaneity. Drawing so heavily on blues and gospel, Mingus’s music needs to keep its raw edges. So it didn’t even matter if there were occasional mix-ups over cues or two soloists getting to their feet at the same time.

The alto player Brandon Wright added flute to the sinuous Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters after Kozlov had played a bowed bass introduction. The tenorist Wayne Escoffery fired off one ferocious solo after another. There was a British presence too, in the trombonist Paul Taylor, leader of the quirky and tuneful Blowpipes trio, sitting in for a member of the band who had been snowed in on the east coast of America. Soho’s storm will be raging until Saturday.

Read the original article here

Sue Mingus on Gunther Schuller

GuntherSue4fixed

(Sue Mingus & Gunther Schuller at St. Bart’s Church, Manhattan, 2011)

 

I grieve along with everyone who loved Gunther Schuller.  Gunther was a friend for over thirty years.  He was a colossus in music, a force in nearly every genre from classical to jazz, a composer, conductor, arranger, educator, performer.  He was also an impassioned advocate for Charles Mingus music, from the first concert he produced with Mingus in the early Sixties, to his editing and conducting of Mingus’s three-hour masterwork “Epitaph” after his death, to his major participation in the annual Mingus High School  Competition at Manhattan School of Music.  From my own perspective no one did more to elevate and promote Mingus besides Charles Mingus himself.

He was available whenever you needed him, he never said no.  If you called he stayed on the phone whatever he might have been doing— and he was always doing something:  preparing to conduct a concert, writing a string quartet, organizing notes for a class he was teaching.  I once took a photograph of Gunther sound asleep on a plane, his head resting on music scores that were spread out on the fold-out table in front of his seat.  My grandfather used to say if you wanted something done, take it to a busy man. Gunther was the embodiment of that saying.

Missing Gunther has just begun. We held a tribute last week at the club where the Mingus Big Band has a weekly residency. We performed arrangements Gunther made for the band. I imagine we will go on performing them for a long while.

 

Sue Mingus