Mingus Big Band – Live in Tokyo At the Blue Note

by | Oct 27, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Mingus Big Band  – Live in Tokyo At the Blue Note  (12/31/2005) –  Sue Mingus Music 3042 (Distr. by Universal), 64:08  ****1/2:

The new Mingus Big Band CD, Live In Tokyo, is cause for both celebration and a look backward towards the life of one of the geniuses of jazz, Charles Mingus. Mingus died in 1979, and it had to be a bittersweet evening for his widow, Sue, on the night of this recording, New Year’s Eve, 2005, as it was 29 years ago that Charles Mingus had a series of concerts in Japan. At that time, Mingus was touring with his quintet.

For this New Year’s Eve concert at Tokyo’s famed Blue Note Club, a large orchestra returned to Japan. For the last 15 years the Mingus book of compositions has been kept alive by a largely New York based contingent of veteran jazz musicians. They play weekly in Manhattan and occasionally go on the road. They sometimes play as a mostly traditional brass orchestra and at other times featuring french horn, tuba, and other non-typical jazz instruments. What they always have in common is a creativity in exploring and re-exploring in new directions Charles’ brilliant compositions.

A special treat on this CD is the appearance of veteran trumpeter Jack Walrath. Jack was a member of the 1976 Mingus Quintet that toured Japan. For the occasion of this special recorded live concert, a 14 member band was brought to Tokyo. It features present day stars Ronnie Cuber, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Eddie Henderson, Conrad Herwig, and Craig Handy, to name just a few.

What makes this band so exciting is their creativity in rearranging both Mingus standards and lesser known works, which makes most any night in concert with them unique as they have so many arrangements, each featuring different soloists on a given night. For Live In Tokyo their tracklist includes Bird Calls, Mingus’ tribute to Charlie Parker; Wham Bam, arranged by master bari saxman, Cuber; and Celia, a beautiful ballad featuring Craig Handy on alto. Another special treat is the John Stubblefield arranged Prayer for Passive Resistance, which was the last composition Stubblefield worked on before his death – five months prior to this concert date.

Live in Tokyo is a beautiful mixture of the straight ahead and the avant – a testament to the genius of Charles Mingus. His uniqueness is celebrated on this CD, which is a must for Mingus fans.

Tracklist: Wham Bam, Opus Four, Celia, Bird Calls, Meditations, Prayer for Passive Resistance, Free Cell Block F, Ecclusiastics

– Jeff Krow

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