Happy Birthday Mingus- Celebrating 85: Music of Love & Protest
Mingus Big Band & Mingus Orchestra with Gunther Schuller, Conductor
Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Damrosh Park Bandshell, 8 PM, Free
Mingus Big Band:
Saxes: Ronnie Cuber, Wayne Escoffrey, Abraham Burton, Vincent Herring, Jaleel Shaw
Trumpets: Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, Lew Soloff
Trombones: Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Early McIntyre, Andy Hunter,*
Drums: Jonathon Blake
Bass: Boris Kozlov
Piano: George Colligan
*the name of the bass trombonist/tuba was left off the program and I regret I did not catch it during the acknowledgements
Alto Sax/Flute: Craig Handy
Tenor Sax: Wayne Escoffrey
Bass Clarinet: Douglas Yates
Bassoon: Michael Rabinowitz
French Horn: John Clarke
Trumpet: Kenny Rampton
Trombone: Ku-umba Frank Lacy
Guitar: Jack Wilkins
Bass: Boris Kozlov
Drums: Donald Edwards
Conductor: Gunther Schuller
Sunday night was a beautiful night for outdoor music. Cool and breezy, the sun set gracefully behind the concert shell, which Nadje pointed out, looked with it’s white arc as if it had been removed from the Sydney Opera House and sent north. Sue Mingus emceed the evening.
Contrary to the billing, the Mingus Orchestra played first. Most impressive was Gunther Schuller’s plaid jacket- cool in the 70s, still cool today. Actually, it was very exciting to watch him conduct. I am not too familiar with Mingus’s works for chamber orchestra, but after hearing the 5 or so tunes that they played, three from his acclaimed “Epitaph” (arrangments made of, course, by Schuller) I am most definitley going to check them out.
Highlight: Douglas Yates’s bad ass bass clarinet solo on Pithecanthropus Erectus.
After a short pause and set change, the big band came on. They picked up where the orchestra left off with more excerpts from “Epitaph” before kicking it up with my favorite of the evening, “Freedom.” Ku-umbra Frank Lacy outdid himself on the vocals and while up to this point the concert had been enjoyable, a new energy rippled through the audience during this tune. The set ended with the equally charged “Song with Orange.” Solos by Wayne Escoffrey, Jaleel Shaw and Vincent Herring made me happy.
Highlight: The grayhairs dancing in the audience to “Song with Orange.”
Dharmashakti in Heavan
Integral Yoga Institute, 6th Floor, 7 PM, $20
Deian McBryde (Dharmashakti)- voice
David Freeman- percussion
Nadje Noordhuis- trumpet
Christian Pincock- electronics & valve trombone
Ursel Schlicht- keyboard
Adam Simmons- tenor sax, flute, & shakuhachi
Attendance to this show began as simple friend support. Nadje was playing therefore I was attending. However it only took a few chants for me to be fully engaged in this very out, but very enjoyable evening.
Until last night, I was a Kirtan virgin. I didn’t know it, in fact I had never heard the term Kirtan. In fact, I thought I was attending passively a concert of free jazz, not participating in the chanting of Sanskrit. I must say, chanting was a hell of a lot more fun than listening to free jazz for what turned out to be almost 2 and a half hours!
The kirtan was held in a yoga studio in what is technically the West Village (W. 13 St) but may as well still be Chelsea. I arrived early and was herded to the rooftop garden to wait, which I found even more relaxing than the Nag Champa burning in the gift store. Like any good jazz show, this one started a good 20 minutes late. It took another 20 minutes after the first “om shanti” for me to finally be able to look at Nad without laughing.
Overall, I was very much enjoyed the evening of Sanskrit and jazz. Deian did a magnificent job weaving between audience participation with chants and instructional listening (watch the recorder as it is held in front of the person creating the idea for the group improvisation). There were enough solos to satiate my snobby jazzer taste and there was even a tune in which Adam conducted the entire room in a group improvisation (this was quite interesting!). I thought the horn arrangements were great and won’t lie and say I didn’t feel a sense of connection and energy as the entire room engaged in singing (myself included). If nothing else- it was great ear training (when there is a drone going, it’s a constant game of what interval is this?).
One slight inconsistency blocked some of my happy-peace-energy. Deian welcomed the audience with smiles and patience as we responded on the wrong beats and wrong pitches to his undoubtedly deliberately thought out arrangements. But he did not treat the band with the same warmth. You could sense a perfectionist need for control as he communicated sans smiles with the band members. This definitely did not jive with the love yourself and the world vibe he so successfully created with the music.
Note to self: Stage presence is of equal importance, if not more important than the music. Alternatively, love your band members and don’t be afraid to let the music escape your grasp and develop into its own, uncontrolled entity.
Highlight: When Deian asked who in the audience passionately loved free jazz and a few people actually raised their hands!!
Two consecutive nights of completely different music; this is why I love NY.