by Brian Weidy
Playing their regular weekly show on a blustery evening last night at the Jazz Standard, the Mingus Big Band offered up their new arrangements of classic Charles Mingus tunes. This fourteen-piece band - which has been playing weekly gigs in NYC for more than 20 years - uses a roating group of musicians, making Mingus' music feel fresh every Monday despite being decades old.
Playing with a degree of cohesion even trios rarely attain, the large band snaked their way through the depths of Mingus' catalog, starting their set with a more than twenty-minute take on "Gunslinging Bird": a song which traverses many different tempos and dynamics to create a near-perfect cacophony of sound. "Fables of Faubus," about the infamous Arkansas governor, featured Frank Lacy doing an almost-rap on Mingus' most political tune.
Bass player and band leader Boris Kozlov filled Mingus's shoes more than admirably, introducing "The Children's Hour of Dream" as a movement from Mingus' posthumously released Epitaph: a 26 movement "jazz symphony" featuring many of Mingus' signature quick tempo changes, shifting keys, and other complexities which the band performed with precision and ease.
Closing the five-song, hour-long set were "GG Train" and "Casanova," the latter an obscure, slow-paced tune that capped off a great set of music.