Let My Children Hear Music
In Johnson’s recent efforts to arrange material for the Mingus Big Band, he’s had the chance to go through the voluminous amount of material that Mingus had left behind. Put together from various manuscripts, Johnson constructed “Love’s Fury” and it was making its world debut at the fest. This lush ballad was established as a feature piece for Bobby Watson, not unlike the kind of structures Ellington used to provide for Johnny Hodges. Watson’s contribution built to a great climax, making him the evening’s most valuable player. A final bit of diversity in style marked the concluding set of performances. While a selection from “Epitaph” wore out its welcome and proved to be the least interesting piece of the lot, “Tonight at Noon” provided for a perfect flag-waver. Watson, Belgrave, and McBride spoke clearly as the tune shifted between an roundabout 12/8 groove and a fast moving three.
Clearly there remains much to cultivate in the compositions of Charles Mingus. Johnson and the CJO, not to mention their guest soloist, should be commended for keeping this great body of work vital and alive. And while the late bassist and composer could not be there in body, his spirit seemed to speak through the instruments of the gifted musicians on hand.