Charles Mingus Credit: AmNews Archives

In honor of bassist and composer Charles Mingus, whose 100th birthday would have been on April 22, 2022, Jazz at Lincoln Center is presenting a Charles Mingus Centennial Celebration to commemorate his legacy as a trailblazing composer, performer, and bandleader, and as a staunch advocate for social justice and education.

The celebration, which started on April 19 and runs through April 26, explores the many styles Mingus experimented with, from swinging hard bop to Afro-Latin grooves, blues, and classical structures.

The week-long celebration will trace the jazz luminary’s impact on generations of musicians with a series of performances spanning two stages and six ensembles, including the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and appearances by the namesake bands established by Sue Mingus following her husband’s death to carry on his musical legacy: the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, and Mingus Orchestra. These performances are presented in association with the Charles Mingus Institute and Jazz Workshop, Inc.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will honor the musical giant with concerts on April 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. in Rose Theater. With musical direction by JLCO trombonist Vincent Gardner, the performances will feature a collection of the wide-ranging and innovative works-from “Freedom” to “Don’t Be Afraid, The Clown’s Afraid Too”-that made Mingus one of the 20th century’s most beloved and influential composers of any genre.

“Charles Mingus’s music represents some of the most sincere and emotionally raw music in the jazz canon,” Gardner said. “His music always sounds to me as if something significant happened in his life or in society, and instead of yelling out in joy or pain, he wrote a song about it. It’s extremely rewarding to present music that conveys pure feeling to both the musician and listener.”

The celebrations continue at Dizzy’s Club, with highlights including the Mingus Dynasty on April 23 and the Mingus Orchestra on April 24. The Mingus legacy bands are the leading ensembles specializing in the composer’s vast repertoire, with an all-star lineup that originally featured many of Mingus’s own sidemen, including Randy Brecker, John Handy, Jimmy Knepper, and others.

Decades later, his rich musical influence runs deep among a new generation of talents. Rounding out the program with up-and-coming young artists, the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra kicks off the celebration on April 19, and the Yale Jazz Ensemble concludes the festivities on April 26, commemorating the milestone anniversary with guest appearances by three leading contemporary Mingus interpreters: saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and trombonist Frank Lacy, both longtime members of the Mingus Big Band, and trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, who has toured and recorded extensively with the Mingus Orchestra.

Tickets for the Charles Mingus Centennial Celebration performances in Rose Theater are available at 2022.jazz.org/charles-mingus. Tickets for Dizzy’s Club performances are available at jazz.org/dizzys.

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