“In other words, I am three”
Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog
The well known opening words of Charles Mingus’ s autobiography are echoed in the title of this new release, featuring all three repertory ensembles devoted to his music. I Am Three brings together the Mingus Dynasty, a touring quintet/septet, that formed after Mingus’s death, the Mingus Big Band, which just completed an astonishing 14-year residency at New York’s Fez Under the Time Café 4 years at Iridium and now Mondays at Jazz Standard, and the newest configuration, the Mingus Orchestra, which features unique instrumentation including French horn, bassoon, guitar and bass clarinet.
In addition, I Am Three opens another new chapter in Sue Mingus’s longstanding dedication to Mingus’s legacy. It is the first release of her new imprint, Sue Mingus Music, in conjunction with Sunnyside Records and Universal Music Jazz France. This new venture is an extension of her pioneering Revenge Records label which she formed to combat the piracy of her husband’s music, and it is also the logical development of Mingus’s own Debut label in the ’50s. Future Sue Mingus Music releases include the first CD reissue of the 1965 Music Written for Monterey, Not Played, Performed at UCLA, a ’60s live date from Cornell University with Eric Dolphy, and more previously unreleased material. “We have been very lucky to have regular forums for the music – which have allowed us to develop audiences for the music and to expand the listenership for Mingus’s compositions,” says Sue. “We hope this will continue, and that our concerts and tours abroad will help to develop new generations of Mingus listeners and performers.”
I Am Three‘s ten tracks extend and elaborate on Mingus’s compositional legacy, featuring several of his ex-sidemen who knew him first-hand, and some of today’s brightest jazz stars, including trombonists Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Conrad Herwig, and Robin Eubanks, saxophonists Miguel Zenon, Craig Handy, Seamus Blake, trumpeters Jeremy Pelt, Randy Brecker and Alex “Sasha” Sipiagin, pianists George Colligan, John Hicks, and Orrin Evans and drummers Johnathan Blake and Donald Edwards.
An especially noteworthy aspect of the new album is that, for the first time, the band members provide their own arrangements for a Mingus recording. John Stubblefield supervised the Big Band’s playing of his own arrangements of “Song with Orange,” “Orange was the Color of her Dress,” and the bouncy New Orleans shuffle, “Pedal Point Blues,” which all ring with the trademarked Mingusian hornlines, tempo changes, and driving rhythms. Other artists contribute some singing and swinging takes on Mingus’s music for the new century. Robin Eubanks’s arrangement of “MDM” mixes themes from Mingus’s “51st Street Blues,” Duke Ellington’s “Mainstem,” and Thelonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.” Then, there’s the all-time, down-home gospel favorite in 6/4 time, the spontaneously arranged “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.” Ku-umba Frank Lacy steals the show with his “Louis Armstrong meets Eddie Jefferson” vocals on “Paris in Blue,” a 1952 composition that featured singer Jackie Paris.
Sy Johnson’s arrangements of the Orchestra’s spectral, Mahlerian rendition of the “Chill of Death,” which Mingus wrote at the age of 17, and the moody Third Stream-ish “Todo Modo,” reveal the composer’s lifelong interest in and utilization of European classical music. “He grew up listening to classical music,” Sue says. “He was familiar with the masters as well as with the newer composers like Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Kurt Weill. As he wrote, had he been another color, he probably would have been the premier bassist in the New York Philharmonic and perhaps never have composed at all.” In contrast, the Mingus Dynasty’s treatments of the searing “Cell Block F ‘Tis Nazi USA,” and “Tensions,” both arranged by bassist Boris Kozlov, showcase Mingus’s ability to make social protest swing.
“Charles Mingus left one of the largest bodies of compositions in 20th century American music,” Sue states. “As composer/conductor Gunther Schuller has pointed out, it is also one of the most varied and most personal legacies in any genre of music– jazz or classical. When Mingus died in l979, he was considered a virtuoso bass player, bandleader, and colorful personality on stage, and was sometimes referred to as jazz’s angry man. The greatest change in perception over the last 25 years is that of Mingus as composer.” It is this perception that I Am Three will illuminate.
For more information, please contact:
Garrett Shelton at Sunnyside Records
Copyright 2005 The Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)
May 29, 2005
SECTION: ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. G3
HEADLINE: CD LISTENING POST; BRIEF REVIEWS OF SELECT RELEASES
Mingus Big Band, Orchestra and Dynasty, “I Am Three” (Sue Mingus Music). Thank God for Sue Mingus, the jazz widow to end all jazz widows. It’s one thing to strive to preserve your late husband’s musical legacy, it’s quite another to create some of the great working ensembles in current jazz to do just that. The result is way beyond preservation and neo-classic reverence for Charles Mingus, one of jazz’s most explosive geniuses. It’s wild, eruptive, disruptive and ambitious music on its own that grabs you by throat and holds on. It isn’t just Mingus’ music that musicians like John Hicks, Jack Wilkins, Craig Handy, Randy Brecker and Seamus Blake are preserving but his unique and primal American musical spirit. One of the year’s great jazz discs. Review: 4 stars (Jeff Simon)
The New York Sun
May 24, 2005
Mingus Amongus by Will Friedwald
There are two ways the legacy of great composer-bandleaders is kept alive. One is a band dedicated to playing his music. The other is new and improved releases of classic recordings. Mingus has been well served in both regards.
Philadelphia Daily News
June 7, 2005 Pg. 38
Three ensembles dedicated to the work of Charles Mingus – Mingus Big Band, Orchestra and Dynasty – keep it fresh and accessible on ” I Am Three ” (Sunnyside/Sue Mingus Music). Try “Orange Is the Color of Her Dress.” A-
All About Jazz
June 6, 2006
By Paul Olson
The album’s excellence, really, is a product of tight, ensemble performance (a pretty common quality in jazz recordings nowadays) and fiercely emotional commitment on the part of the musicians to the composer’s music (something considerably less common). One never gets the impression these players are covering Mingus because it’s a gig. And it’s this unity of purpose that energizes I Am Three, and makes it much more than just another tribute album. The composer is alive on these recordings. Full review.