Mingus Awareness Project

Come see some live music and give your dollars to a good cause

This Sunday at Gallery 5 there is, I hear, a wonderful concert. It’s an annual event that Eight Track Alum, University of Richmond Professor, father of the Richmond avant-garde community, and avid Steelers fan Brian Jones puts on every year. It’s called the Mingus Awareness Project and features the finest musicians that Richmond has to offer. Unfortunately that first little blurb, as enticing as it is to me, isn’t going to get anyone out. So, I thought I’d take an extended second to make you more “aware” of what is actually happening this Sunday with the hope that you might come see some live music, give your dollars to a fine cause, and stare in wide-eyed wonder at Doug Richards. You might call this article “The Mingus Awareness Project Awareness Project”

Of course to appreciate the event you first might want to know a bit about Charles Mingus. Don’t worry if you haven’t a clue who that is – I will tell you. Well, wikipedia and Nat Hentoff can really tell you, but I will give you a list of 9 things you should know about Charles Mingus, all designed to pique your curiosity and actually cause you to ATTEND the concert on Sunday.

1. Charles Mingus’s music is a extremely personal and singular combination of hard bop, gospel music, third stream, free jazz, classical music, New Orleans music, and an assortment of other things…”Cumbia and Jazz Fusion sought to blend Colombian music, Cumbia, with more traditional jazz forms.”

2. Mingus holds an extremely unique position in jazz history. He toured with Louis Armstrong, was briefly in Duke Ellington’s band (was the only musician personally fired by Ellington), played with Charlie Parker, grew up in California, and was briefly associated with the “West Coast jazz” scene.

3. For his seminal work, Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Mingus asked his psychotherapist to provide the liner notes for the record.

4. At the time of his death, Mingus had been recording an album with singer Joni Mitchell.

5. in 1959, Mingus provided the music for John Cassevetes gritty New York City film, Shadows.

6. He is one of the few Jazz musicians that are regarded not only for their solo abilities but for their wonderful compositions.

7. Mingus died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in 1979. He was 57. He spent the last part of his life making music in unconventional ways. He often hummed a new melody, and accompanying parts, into a tape recorder – later, an arranger would orchestrate the composition for a new recording.

8. Mingus worked with all sizes of ensembles from very small to very large and is known as an excellent and influential band leader, combining individual skills and personalities into fascinating combinations.

9. He continually focused on group improvisation as a central part to his aesthetic and compositions.

Ok. That’s more than a day’s worth of Charles Mingus knowledge. Take that and transform it into energy that will propel you off the couch and into the street – straight away to Gallery 5 – on Sunday, not now. There you will find three things: 1) The Mingus Awareness Big Band, directed by the inimitable Doug Richards, taking on a handful of Mingus big band arrangements (TRUST ME THIS IS NOT TO MISS). 2) The M.A.P. Trio, led by Brian Jones, doing his Brian Jones thing on another handful of Mingus tunes (ALSO NOT TO MISS). 3) Fight the Big Bull playing a set of Mingus inspired originals (I’m not allowed to say whether or not this is “not to miss” – it would be ungentlemanly).

All of this will cost you a measly $12.

Since I know that you are waffling under an umbrella of reasons like “Jazz is boring” or “I don’t understand it” or “$12 DOLLARS!!!” or “There’s no way this can be better than Broken Social Scene” (I will take on all of these ridiculous musings in later articles), I will play to your conscience – all of the money will go to benefit ALS research. It’s even at a fantastically convenient time: FOUR O’CLOCK to SEVEN O’CLOCK which means two things – you can bring your kid, and you can still have time to “go out.” Mark it on the calender, set your alarm, and do not miss what is quickly becoming a beautiful Richmond tradition.

Mingus Awareness Project
Gallery 5
Sunday, October 26, 4-7pm

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Matthew E. White

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