The Beast ran into our good friend "Dr." Jeffrey Winston last weekend at a Charles Owens concert and he clued us in to the ongoing series of Charles Mingus-related events happening around town in the next few months. Sponsored by the LA Dept. of Cultural Affairs, the series is titled Son of Watts Musical Caravan Project: Celebrating the Life and Work of Charles Mingus. Unfortunately, Jeffrey informed us that we had already missed two of the most prominent events: last Friday night's concert in Culver City that featured such a Murderer's Row of high-end local talent -- James Newton! Roberto Miguel Miranda! Bennie Maupin! Steve Cotter! Nolan Shaheed! SONSHIP THEUS! -- that we almost cried; then there was the panel discussion on the "State of Music in South LA" which kicked off at 9am (?!?) the following morning. Damn, of all the weekends to fall down the rabbit hole...
"Better Git It, Motherfucker"
Fortunately, there are still some significant events left in this musical caravan: the "Mingus Visual Art Exhibition" is a compendium of Mingus memorabilia (vintage album covers, concert posters, photos, books) currently on display at the William Grant Still Arts Center thru May 24.
The piece de resistance will be on June 21 at the Watts Towers Art Center: a screening of A Tribute to Charles Mingus: Past, Present and Future, a documentary film by Rosie Lee Hooks and Paul S. Rogers that includes interviews and performance excerpts from some SoLA heavies like Patrice Rushen, Nedra Wheeler, Ndugu Chancler and Mr. Buddy Collette, who essays his many memories of keeping that firey young Mingo in line. Following this will be Ms. Wheeler's Bass Choir perfoming their tribute to Mingus.
And, if you can't wait that long, the Mingus Big Band -- featuring trumpeter Kenny Rampton and saxists Vincent Herring, Craig Handy and Seamus Blake, trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy, pianist David Kikoski and Boris Kozlov (playing Mingus's own lion-headed bass!) -- will invade the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts this Friday to perform TWO classic Mingus albums -- Mingus Ah Um and Blues & Roots -- in their entirety. (Hmmm, it's about time the jazz world jumped on this mostly rock trend of performing whole albums in sequence -- but then again, didn't jazz start that trend to begin with?)
Another bit of info Jeffrey fed us was Prayer for my Ancestors (Futhermore), the new CD from Azar Lawrence featuring drummer Alphonse Mouzon, bassist Henry "The Skipper" Franklin and pianist Nate Morgan (in his last studio session before his stroke last December). Jeffrey proudly related he did the terrific liner notes, and we informed him that as a writer he had just been elevated to a whole new level of Cool: liner notes for a jazz CD!
If the first four months of 2009 are any indication, it will be a far busier year for Mr. Azar. On the heels of Ancestors and Speak the Word (Zarmedia), he traveled to New York and reestablished a few old connections, jamming with Eddie Henderson and Rashied Ali in separate sessions. Azar proposed the idea of making a recording with Henderson and Ali to Furthermore and the fledgling label found it impossible to refuse. Joined by his East Coast pianist of choice, Benito Gonzalez, and bassist Essiet Essiet, Azar rehearsed his quintet during the day and hit the clubs at night. He hooked up with alto saxophonist Gerald Hayes, who appeared on Azar’s 1975 album, Summer Solstice. The quintet grew into a sextet. The group headed to Bennett Studios in Englewood, New Jersey on April Fool’s Day and recorded the tunes for the upcoming album, Mystic Dreams, scheduled for release in the summer of 2009.