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Mingus Big Band, Orchestra, and Dynasty: I Am Three

This is an in-your-face resurrection and updating of Charles Mingus’ three repertory books: his roaring Big Band, the equally swinging 10-piece Orchestra, plus the versatile Dynasty septet. It creates inspired solo work by many who played with the abrasive, demanding yet gentle giant.

The moods, dynamics and tempos are so erratic, the charts cannot be read; they have to be conducted. So veterans like the recently deceased John Stubblefield and Sy Johnson firmly control the highly personal creations, making this one of the best-conceived tributes ever to Mingus. He’d love what Stubblefied did to “Song With Orange.” As a shuffle, it’s the most intense swinger of all, containing memorable solos by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, trombonist Conrad Herwig and the goosing by drummer Johnathan Blake.

Mingus would also dig the ad-lib primal screams in the out chorus by Ku-Umba Frank Lacy. He’d appreciate hearing his classical side preserved faithfully by Sy Johnson on “Chill of Death,” and endorse the spontaneous head arrangement on “Wednesday Prayer Meeting.” Finally, he’d welcome arranger Robin Eubanks’ experiment on “MDM,” where the trombonist created a song while fashioning astonishing counterpoint using melody lines from Duke Ellington’s “Main Stem” for the trumpets, Thelonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” for saxes and Mingus’ “51st Street Blues” for trombones. It’s a swinging tour de force.

Originally Published