The Jazzcat

Mingus Mingus Mingus Big Band at Royce Hall!

by on May.01, 2005, under News



Mingus Mingus Mingus

in a word or three says it all! It is so great and so important to

continue to be in touch with Charles Mingus’s Music! It is not only the

music, but it is also that Taurian energy that runs through my body

that keeps me connected. Having a birthday just two days apart from

Charles’s, the one similarity among us Taurians that I continue to

notice is the passion and desire to let the truth be told. The

“Underdog” is an appropriate description because even though we are

big, strong and beautiful, our undeniable contributions are generally

overlooked by the masses. Therefore we must be bold and demand that the

truth be heard through our creativity.




When I did my

overnight jazz show, Charles Mingus’s music was quite often a feature.

I like to play music that is emotionally provocative, cognitively

challenging, creatively stimulating and where its composer has taken a

conversation from real life and “transformed it on the bandstand!”

Charles has always delivered some of the most stimulating arrangements

of musical statements and has made sure to choose the right array of

musicians that would capture the essence of his vision.




It has been the

destiny of Sue Mingus to take her late husband’s music and continue its

legacy on into future generations. She spoke about his music, the

Mingus Big Band, Charles’s birthday on April 22, 1922, his

contribution, as a child growing up in Watts, to Simon Rodia’s towering

sculpture and some unreleased music that Sue is about to release as an

unedited session introspective with the real “Charles Mingus”. I say it

that way because I am sure that it will be interesting to hear the way

Man Mountain Mingus gets the most out of his musicians and his

compositions. Sue also mentioned that there has been a large sum of

money collected to build a Charles Minus recreation center near the Watts Towers here in Los Angeles.




Charles, as most of

you know, has written a book called “Beneath the Underdog” in which he

shares the details of his life, loves, fantasies and challenges. Sue

has written a book as well called “Tonight at Noon”

which she was wonderful enough to give to me. She says that she was

much kinder in her writing about Charles’s life than he was. When you

read it, you will see how a young girl, with a very conservative

upbringing ends up in a new world of cacophonic music, a language full

of confusing but meaningful expressions, one dimensional psychological

interpretations of life and wild “loco” adventures.




On stage at Royce

Hall tonight is where the Mingus Music is kept alive by the Mingus

Big Band under the direction of saxophonist Craig Handy, who lead the

band through some politically emotionally moving hard hitting Mingus

musical expressions. Boris Koslov is the bass player tonight and he is

actually playing Charles’s lions head bass. I watched him throughout

the performance and wondered what it would be like to play the actual

bass of a legend? Boris arranged “Tensions”, one of Mingus’s more

powerful tunes, and added his own flavor to the piece. There is no

doubt that this particular bass has that phat low register sound,

undeniably Mingus. Craig said that “You have to have some big feet to

fill Mingus’s shoes”, I was thinking of something else!


image image



was one of the few musicians who stood for justice in a world of

injustice and used the stage as his soap box. But, that was only part

of the man. If you listen to all of his compositions, most of them are

saturated with love and beauty. Progressive, percussive, vocal screams

of elation and agony. Speak, listen, hear my call “Don’t Let it Happen

Here”“Oh Lord Please Don’t Drop that Atomic Bomb on Me” “While I Eat

that Chicken” with “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” under “Peggy’s

Blue Sky Light” while wearing “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife” as

the “Passion of a Man” realizes that “Orange was the Color of her

Dress” as he plays his “Love Chant” for the “Invisible Lady”. The

mental matter is deep, complex and genius. While listening, I imagine

Mingus on a street corner in Harlem, at a podium, preaching to a crowd

of impoverished people by playing his bass and the audience, each with

their own instrument, responding all at the same time with trumpets,

trombones, baritones, flutes altos, drums and every other instrument

you can think of getting riled up by the wrong doings of the haves

versus the have-nots!




Frank Lacy has a

great personality on trombone and vocals. He added his vocal flavor to

“The Invisible Lady” where the beauty is the passion and the screams

are cries for freedom. This is one time that you do not have to “give

the drummer some” because tonight, Johnathan Blake took his in a

dazzling display of percussion. All of the cats in the band were

outstanding and are true representations of how Mingus would have

wanted his legacy to continue. The only thing that I would have changed

about the concert is the volume. I think the knob on the volume needed

to be cranked all the way to the right. This is powerful, in your face,

up front music and it would have been great to physically feel the

tremendous punch of the vibration. If you ever loved Charles Mingus

Music, these are the cats to see, The Mingus Big Band! For more

information, check out the website at!



LeRoy Downs



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