Mingus Dynasty | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mingus Dynasty 

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The music lives. Mingus Dynasty evolved out of a tribute concert held in 1979, just weeks after the death of bassist and composer Charles Mingus, and quickly grew into a going concern: a pool of his former sidemen from which six- and seven-piece groups could be plucked to perform his complex yet achingly pure music. At this point the Dynasty has become a true ghost band--of the musicians appearing in Chicago, only the leader (trumpeter Jack Walrath) ever belonged to Mingus's regular working unit--but who cares? Mingus's compositions are grand enough that they deserve to be heard no matter what the circumstances: muscular, earthy, consistently inventive and yet, like the songs of his idols Ellington and Monk, always stamped with the composer's signature. And Mingus's songs are flat-out hard enough that only top-drawer musicians would attempt them in the first place, which assures the quality of the Dynasty's somewhat fluid lineup. Walrath supplies some of the passion and humor that made Mingus larger than life; his cohorts will include the long-unheard Alex Foster on tenor, a simply wonderful drummer in Victor Lewis, and John Hicks, whose deep roots in a wide range of African American idioms make him a pianist perfectly fitted to the Mingus tradition. They play as part of the UIC Jazz Festival. Friday, 8 PM, Illinois Room, Chicago Circle Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, 750 S. Halsted; 413-5070.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Swerzy.

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