Chicagoans who admire Charles Mingus’ “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” are having a very good year.
In May, Jeff Lindberg’s Chicago Jazz Orchestra played what is believed to have been the world premiere concert version of Mingus’ landmark recording. The performance at Spertus Institute took a while to gain momentum, but eventually it achieved critical mass, enabling listeners to hear the 1963 work in the best way possible: live.
On Thursday night, former Chicago saxophonist Greg Ward reconceived Mingus’ magnum opus, collaborating with choreographer Onye Ozuzu for a spectacle in sight and sound at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. This, too, was a significant occasion, notwithstanding the characteristically clumsy live video that flickered on the Pritzker’s oversized LED screen.
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(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
This explosive event is the result of a massive star exhausting the hydrogen and helium that fuel its nuclear fires. It is the heat from these nuclear fusion processes that prevents the star collapsing under its own weight. As the core collapses, a rebounding shock wave blows off the outer layers of the star (red) at thousands of kilometers per second. A supernova (white and blue, centre) may briefly outshine an entire galaxy.
Lew Soloff‘s passing is a profound loss to me personally and to everyone in the Mingus Big Band.
We will miss Lew as the great friend and musician he was and as the celebrant of life who was as excited about food and feasts and new discoveries of all kinds as he was about music and trumpet playing. We shared meals around the world — Lew was forever investigating and uncovering some new place even here in the city. His vitality and his enthusiasm for life inspired all of us. He will be profoundly missed.
— Sue Mingus
Thank you to Ronnie Scott’s for hosting a great week of Mingus music in London!
“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.”
“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.”
“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. “