07/23/11

Gerald Veasley
Gerald Veasley's Electric Mingus Project

Given six-string electric bassist Gerald Veasley’s rep as a smooth-jazz exponent and, through his radio show, advocate for the genre, it’s easy to forget his multiyear stint with the late Joe Zawinul and his work backing such artists as McCoy Tyner. And while Veasley is a certified ripper, it’s somewhat surprising to see his name attached to a project built around the concept of “reimagining” the music of Charles Mingus.

And yet the ambitious acoustic-electric fusion of Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project stands as an admirable tribute, thanks to his creative arrangements of Mingus music and top-shelf performances by the leader and supporting players, including Chris Farr on saxophones and EWI, John Swana on trumpet and EVI, vibraphonist Tony Miceli and drummer Harry “Butch” Reed. There are provocative original tunes here, too: “Blues for Mingus,” with its loping-to-crawling rhythms and rangy start-stop melody, and the funk-edged “Eighteen Sixty-Three.”

Veasley effectively uses Mingus’ own words, read dramatically by Kevin Wayns, on three tracks: “Interlude—Let My Children Hear Music,” which segues into a rambunctious take on “Haitian Fight Song”; “Interlude—Sounds,” which slides into a haunting “Canon,” its lonely melody initially voiced by Farr and later expanded on by Veasley; and the droning “Interlude—Color and Slavery.” Miles’ “All Blues” is referenced on “Better Get Hit in Your Soul,” in part a showcase for Miceli, and the set closes with Veasley leading a thundering version of “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” bolstered by Farr’s tenor workout.

Originally published in July/August 2011
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