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Rutgers University Program Celebrates Charles Mingus

Program celebrates jazz legend Charles Mingus, connects students with master musicians

Jazz legend Charles Mingus died of complications from ALS in 1979, at age 56.

But thanks to the tenacity of his widow, Sue Mingus, it seems as if the endlessly innovative bassist, composer, band leader, and political activist never left the stage.

Sue Mingus is determined to share her late husband’s music with young people. She closely curates his social-media presence, oversees a Mingus high school festival and competition, and finances The Mingus Project, a program in which musicians and scholars conduct intensive master classes with Mason Gross School jazz students. Rutgers launched the program in 2013 and recently formed the Rutgers University Mingus Ensemble.

“Mingus left so much music,” Sue Mingus says. “It’s so varied and rich; it covers the waterfront. Kids seem to really enjoy playing it.

“There was a perception that his music was very difficult and for the chosen few. It shows you how [much] things change with time,” she adds. “We have these youngsters just playing the life out of it.”

Mason Gross jazz students say The Mingus Project grants them access to “the real world.”

“Before there were institutions for [learning] jazz, this is how you learned,” says Dan Giannone, a drummer who has participated in numerous classes with musicians from the Grammy-winning Mingus Big Band, the Mingus Orchestra, and the Mingus Dynasty. All three tribute bands, which Mingus began to assemble right after her husband’s death, have included Mason Gross alumni and faculty members, such as jazz studies chair and trombonist Conrad Herwig, bassist Kenny Davis, pianist Orrin Evans, and trombonist “Ku-umba” Frank Lacy.

The bottom line, Giannone says: “Playing with people greater than you makes you better yourself.” The Mingus Project allows him to do just that, on a regular basis.   … ….(CONTINUED)

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

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. “

Tomorrow: The Music of Charles Mingus, a Master Class

Tomorrow!

Tuesday, Oct 28th, 2014
Manhattan School of Music
3-5pm
Carla Bossi Comelli Studio (7th Floor)

120 Claremont Ave. (122nd St. near Broadway)

Lecture by Ken Pullig of Berklee College of Music
Presented by Sue Mingus & Let My Children Hear Music, Inc.

Free & Open to the Public!

Ken Pullig is the retired Chair of Jazz Composition at Berklee College of Music where he taught Mingus for three decades. He is also the author of the upcoming book– Mingus Music!

 

Nat Hentoff & “The Pleasures of Being Out of Step”

On Thursday, October 16th, 2014, at 7:00pm Suffolk University will screen the film The Pleasure of Being Out of Step a documentary film about the life of seminal jazz critic and Boston native, Nat Hentoff whose career tracks the greatest cultural and political movements of the last 65 years.  Hentoff is a pioneer who raised jazz as an art form and was present at the creation of ‘alternative’ journalism in this country, and a personal friend of Mingus.  The screening will feature a performance by the Boston Latin School Jazz Combo under the direction of Paul J. Pitts, Director.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

In memory of her husband, Sue Mingus participates in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

In 1977, Charles Mingus was diagnosed with ALS. On January 5, 1979, he passed away at age 56 in Mexico. He was cremated the next day. On the day of his death, 56 sperm whales beached themselves in Mexico and were removed by fire.

SUEALS

Note: Ice water tossed by Executive Chef James Kent of Danny Meyer’s Nomad Restaurant