|Thirty years ago, in late December, 1976, Charles Mingus performed a series of concerts in Tokyo with his quintet. In 2005, also in December, another Mingus band rounded out a week at Tokyo’s famous Blue Note Club with a live recording on New Year’s Eve. Trumpet player Jack Walrath was on hand for both events, linking past and present. The original tour included Walrath, Charles Mingus, Dannie Richmond, Danny Mixon and Ricky Ford. The current 14-piece ensemble, the Mingus Big Band, is the legacy group that carries Mingus’s voice into the future. For the past fifteen years it has kept Mingus’s music passionately alive in a weekly residency in Manhattan and in clubs and concert halls across the world.
Back in the Seventies, Charles Mingus was playing the compositions he had just written: “Sue’s Changes,” “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love,” “Remember Rockefeller at Attica,” “Noddin’ Ya Head Blues.” The Mingus Big Band went further back, to the Fifties, for four
Mingus compositions arranged by current band members.
Kiichi Goto a music professor, a synthesizer expert who lived under the tutelage of Moog, a man of boundless generosity, was the artist who oversaw two nights of recording, insisting on bringing his own state-of-the-art equipment. Engineer Tom Swift took over in New York, mixed and mastered the material as he has done on the band’s last six recordings. “I want it to project the vitality of that evening,” he said. “I want it to feel like you’re there at a table — like you have to pay the two-drink minimum!”
Charles Mingus passed on in 1979. His enormous legacy of composition, with its shouts and clamors, its melodies and yearnings, continues to walk the earth through the vitality of these musicians and their uniquely personal translations of his music.