January-30th-2005, 06:43 PM
Mingus Big Band
Curious to get some remarks about the Mingus Big Band.
I know it’s been going a long time now, with plenty of releases. Give it a little more time, and the band may cover all of Mingus’ work (at least the major compositions).
I’m currently listening to “Blues and Politics.” It’s an excellent selection of tunes--in fact, featuring my three all-time favorites from Mingus: “Haitian Fight Song,” “Meditations on a Pair of Wire Cutters,” and “Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat.” But I had a sense of trepidation for the same reason I found the appeal. How could this band do justice to these tunes? “Meditations” is certainly the biggest challenge. No one is going to come anywhere near what Mingus, Dolphy, and Byard did. Still, the band gives it a halfway decent shot in a fairly compact performance (less than 12 minutes compared to 20 for the original). The quieter moments work best. But Vincent Herring’s swinging alto solo just does not fit at all (blame the rhythm section and the arrangement as well).
Mingus could always make a quintet sound huge. Few have that talent, so it makes sense to do his work on the large scale--not to mention that Mingus had that Ellington influence and put together large groups when he could (which was not often). The big band sounds pretty cool on “Haitian Fight Song.” Boris Kozlov (yes, a Russian) handles the bass part well. Wisely, there’s no trombone solo (don’t take on Jimmy Knepper!). In short, this worked better than I expected.
“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is probably the finest thing on the album. The arrangement is superb, and Seamus Blake is magnificent on tenor sax. He plays with great power and authority--every bit the equal of Mingus soloists like Booker Ervin, Roland Kirk, and John Handy. This is a player I need to hear more. Alas, he gets only this one solo on the CD, but it is a tremendous feature showcase for him.
Elsewhere, there are fine solos by Bobby Watson (also too little heard), Mark Shim, Conrad Herwig, Ronnie Cuber, and others. There are only 8 tracks, so soloists don’t get a lot of spots; and it’s odd to me that there are two bassists and two pianists.
An interesting feature is that Mingus’ voice (and band) are spliced into the opening cut. Some cool things can happen via technology.
I like this album more than the one that had the latin flavor, which is the only other one I’ve heard. But I still feel that the best Mingus tribute came with “Next Generation,” with seven players and lots of little-known (but superb) compositions.
January-30th-2005, 07:51 PM
Each Day Is A Gift.
Blue Miles, I've only heard a smattering of the Mingus Big Band recordings, but I'll definitely have more to say after my wife and I hear them in concert when they visit our Alaska Center for the Performing Arts on April 3oth. I can't wait!
They seem to have a solid, respected reputation among repertory bands, from all I've heard and read. Sure hope that Seamus Blake and Gary Bartz are in the reed section when they visit. I wasn't able to find a current tour list of personnel.
Last edited by Ron Thorne; January-30th-2005 at 09:55 PM.
January-30th-2005, 09:46 PM
I imagine they'll blow the roof off the place!
My understanding is that their reputation for live performance is very good, and I know there's at least one live CD (a double)--which I may have to seek out next.
January-31st-2005, 08:24 AM
I like this album more than the one that had the latin flavor, which is the only other one I’ve heard.
That's the one that I have, Que Viva Mingus, don't really listen to it that much. I've really enjoyed their live performances the handful of times I've seen them in the last 4-5 years.
January-31st-2005, 08:35 AM
1. The Mingus Big Band is possibly the best live jazz act I've ever seen, and I've seen one or two. When I saw them in Boston, it was like this little town of 15 guys had set up an encampment on the floor of the Regattabar. There is endless back-and-forth among the players, a lot of on-the-spot chart annotation, and a lot of cheerleading, particularly from Ku-Umba Frank Lacy, who doubles on trombone and vocals. This is not some ghost band with guys reading charts and going through the motions. They play with tremendous intensity and energy. And talk about star-studded! Jeremy Pelt, Eddie Henderson, Conrad Herwig, Vincent Herring, John Stubblefield...so many great voices!
2. Regarding the quality of the work: I had a conversation with John Stubblefield about the way Mingus used to not let his players blow--more often than not there was an obstacle course of chord and key-changes, tempo changes, etc. "It couldn't have been much fun," I said, innocently. Stubs gave me the proverbial shit-eating grin and said "Mingus isn't in the band now!"
January-31st-2005, 10:13 AM
The moldiest of all figs
We saw the band locally a few years ago and were knocked out.
I have three of their releases - Live In Time, Que Vivs Mingus! and Blues and politics and enjoy them all. I can't pick a favorite.
Chaz would be proud.
Bright moments - right now!
December-8th-2012, 03:54 PM
Just be frank
January-20th-2013, 01:32 PM
I've seen the Mingus big band and Mingus Dinasty performing several times at the Jazz Standard and I always enjoyed the music. They are all great musicians and give a beautiful rendition of Charles Mingus music keeping his soul alive