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Live In Tokyo, At the Blue Note

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Album Review

Nearly 15 years after its formation, the Mingus Big Band set up its microphones at Tokyo's Blue Note Club on New Year's Eve 2005-2006 and did what it's been doing so admirably all along: paying homage to its inspiration in a way that would have made him proud. Fourteen members strong, the ensemble for the event, most of them fairly recent additions, included a veteran of Charles Mingus' own Tokyo concerts of 1976, trumpeter Jack Walrath. For the occasion, the band looked back even further though, to the '50s, rolling out and updating the arrangements of a handful of numbers Mingus wrote in his early years: "Bird Calls," the fiery opener "Wham Bam," "Celia" spotlighting alto saxman Craig Handy, and "Prayer for Passive Resistance," which producer Sue Mingus (Charles' widow), notes was arranged by tenor saxist John Stubblefield shortly before his death in 2005. With three trumpets, five saxmen (including tenor, alto, and baritone), and three trombones, the program is naturally heavy on brass-fueled arrangements, with plenty of room given over for solo blowing. "Bird Calls," the tribute to Charlie Parker, features rousing turns from baritonist Ronnie Cuber, tenor Seamus Blake, and altos Craig Handy and Abraham Burton, while the easy-swinging "Free Cell Block F" opens up space for trombonists Conrad Herwig and Ku umba Frank Lacy, Handy moving over to flute, and Cuber returning on baritone. The live set (officially titled "Live in Tokyo at the Blue Note, 2005") avoids Mingus' more difficult material in favor of accessibility, but it's consistent with the other fine work this "ghost" band has done since its inception.

Customer Reviews

top NY players carry Mingus legacy into the future

The Mingus Big Band has long been a proving ground for new young musicians as well as a steady gig for experienced older cats. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Sue Mingus in preserving her late husband's legacy as a composer, this group and others have had a relatively long life. You can see this band with its varying cast of players play at Iridium every Tuesday night in Manhattan. This release is a companion release to a previously unavailable-on-CD live date at UCLA in 1965 by Mingus himself and a band of musicians including Lonnie Hillyer, Hobart Dotson and Jimmy Owens on trumpets, Charles McPherson on alto sax, Julius Watkins on french horn, Howard Johnson on tuba, Dannie Richmond on drums. These two CDs provide sort of a then and now (or vice versa) perspective on Mingus' music - always soulful foot-tappers and fire-and-brimstone speeches (by either Mingus himself, Sue, or Kuumba Frank Lacy - longtime trombonist and singer in the MBB and other Mingus legacy bands).


The Mingus Big Band is amazing, and these songs illustrate the group's true spirit and dedication to Mingus's works. Seeing them live a year ago was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life, and they are the most soulful big band I have ever come across. VIVA MINGUS!!!

good stuff

This is an excellent big band playing great music. However, its my opinion that if you want Mingus, not this band. Be careful what you buy, if you don't know what you are getting into.


Formed: 1991

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A major expansion on Mingus Dynasty, beginning in 1991 the Mingus Big Band (which often uses more than 20 musicians) has explored the great bassist's music at least once a week. They played regularly at the Time Spot Café in New York and their series of recordings for Dreyfus are often remarkable. The huge group performs some of Mingus' most complex works with spirit, virtuosity, and plenty of color. Such musicians as Randy Brecker, Ryan Kisor, Lew Soloff, Jack Walrath, Philip Harper, Art Baron,...
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Live In Tokyo, At the Blue Note, Mingus Big Band
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