Of all the repertory big bands and orchestras this one seems to have the most fun, at least based upon their weekly Thursday evenings at The Fez under the Time Cafe in New York. Concert citings in D.C. at a Library of Congress gig, and under the big tent at Jazz & Heritage bore this out as well. Is it the difficult navigational waters of Charles Mingus’ music? Or perhaps it’s the revolving door nature of the personnel, anchored by such staple members as trumpeters Randy Brecker and Philip Harper, raucous trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy and his section neighbor, the venerable Britt Woodman, and saxophonists Ronnie Cuber and Steve Slagle. A new addition to the stable of players is alto man Gary Bartz, who accounts for four notable solos on these discs. One suspects it’s the bossman himself hovering over every band performance, not to mention the keeper of his flame, ever-vigilant wife Sue Mingus and her perseverance, that are the keys to this band’s ebullient spirit.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.