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Taylor Ho Bynum Remembers Ted Curson

June 3, 1935-Nov. 4, 2012

Ted Curson

Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus is one of the recordings that changed my life. That 1960 album combined the technical virtuosity of bebop, the raw expressiveness of the blues and the exploratory wonder of the nascent free-jazz scene into one potent mix. I was in college when I first heard the record, and was leading a quartet with the same instrumentation (trumpet, alto sax, bass and drums). It was both slightly devastating and deeply inspiring to realize everything I wanted to accomplish musically had been done to near perfection 35 years earlier.

Trumpeter Ted Curson, the last surviving member of that quartet-with Eric Dolphy on reeds and Dannie Richmond on drums, alongside the leader’s propulsive bass-passed away Nov. 4, 2012, at the age of 77. Most remembrances (this one included) will start with his time with Mingus; too many will end there. Curson sometimes bristled at being identified only with Mingus, as it was just one year in his six-decade career. At the same time, he was part of one of the music’s classic ensembles, and of that he remained justly proud.

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