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Charles Mingus


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This project has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius.

“The Orchestra upholds the boisterous Mingus legacy while delving even deeper into his repertory.” – The New York Times

“The lean, sharp ten-piece band features such uncommon instrumentation as a bassoon and a French horn, but this isn’t staid chamber jazz. When the spirit of the late, great one hits them, they steam.” – The New Yorker.

“Had American symphony orchestras not discriminated against African-American musicians throughout much of the 20th century, Charles Mingus might have led an entirely different career. Mingus was as much a student of Beethoven and Debussy as of Fats Waller and Duke Ellington, and his classical aspirations found their outlet in doz ens of compositions written for a sort of jazz-band-plus that included non-jazz instruments like bassoon, oboe, and French horn. It is to this often-overlooked portion of Charles’ legacy to which the Mingus Orchestra is devoted.” -Andy Schwartz

The Charles Mingus Orchestra began alternating performances with its older sibling, the Mingus Big Band, during a 14-year tenure at New York’s Fez Under Time Cafe. In March and April of 2005, the Mingus Orchestra performed across the street from Fez for a series of extraordinary late-night performances at Joe’s Pub. Now the Orchestra, the Dynasty, and the Big Band rotate at Jazz Standard every Monday night. Assembled in 1999 by Sue Mingus, the Mingus Orchestra plays with the intensity of the Mingus Big Band, but with a focus on composition and less emphasis on soloing. Its distinctive sound emerges from an expanded repertory and more exotic instrumentation, including bassoon, bass clarinet, French horn, and guitar ­ instruments not heard in the Big Band ensemble. The other six instruments are chaired by musicians that also play in the Big Band and Dynasty, and include drums, bass, trombone, trumpet, alto and tenor saxophone, with additional doublings on flute, soprano and clarinet.Members of the 10-piece Mingus Orchestra have included the following (one musician for each chair):
Tenor and Soprano Sax: Seamus Blake, Craig Handy, Wayne Escoffery, Donny McCaslin
Alto and Soprano Sax, Flute, Clarinet: Craig Handy, Vincent Herring, Scott Robinson, Mark Gross, Abraham Burton, Jaleel Shaw, Alex Foster
Bass Clarinet: Douglas Yates, John Ellis
Bassoon: Michael Rabinowitz, Janet Grice
French Horn: Bobby Routch, Tom Varner, Vincent Chancey, John Clark
Trombone: Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Conrad Herwig, Joe Fiedler, Andy Hunter
Trumpet: Kenny Rampton, Alex Sipiagin, Tatum Greenblatt, Sean Jones, Randy Brecker, Jack Walrath, Ryan Kisor
Guitar: Mark Whitfield, David Gilmore, Lage Lund, Ben Monder, Jack Wilkins, Freddie Bryant
Bass: Boris Kozlov, Hans Glawischnig, Dwayne Burno, Ugonna Okegwo, Andy McKee, Joe Martin, Mike Richmond
Drums: Donald Edwards, Gene Jackson, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Adam Cruz, Justin Faulkner, Tommy Campbell