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Mingus, Mingus and More Mingus

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The Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra  dug deeply into the music of bassist and composer Charles Mingus in a concert Wednesday night at Artis Naples' Daniels Pavilion. It underscored his imprint on jazz as a bassist, composer and social commentator.

The concert included a wide range of ambitious Mingus works, even touching on his early days as an emerging jazz figure in Los Angeles in the late 1940s. The NPJO, actually a sextet, featured bassist Kevin Mauldin for this evening. The band also includes tenor saxophonist Lew Del Gatto, trumpeter Dan Miller, pianist Jerry Stawski, drummer Mike Harvey and violinist Glenn Basham.

The largest chunk of material came from the composer's best-known album, Mingus-Ah-Um. That recording was one of an handful of great LPs released during 1959, which many critics believe was a turning point year for jazz. You may have heard of the others: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz To Come and John Coltrane's Giant Steps.

 The band explored Mingus's “My Jelly Roll Soul, “Fables of Faubus" (a desegregation commentary directed at Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus), “Mingus Fingus,"  “Boogie Stop Shuffle," Nostalgia in Times Square" and a most-fitting closer, “Better Git Hit in Your Soul." Del Gatto, who arranged the works for this sextet, also crafted a beautiful ballad medley combining “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," which Mingus wrote the night Lester Young died, and another great Mingus tribute piece, “Duke Ellington's Sounds of Love." While Mingus is best known as a composer of original work, he also dug into standards on some recordings. The band also performed one of them, “Serenade in Blue," with an edgy Mingus feel.

Classically trained Mauldin has developed into a fine and interesting jazz bassist. His regular gig, which takes place in a larger Artis venue next door, is as principal bassist with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.

In a couple of instances, Mauldin took two solos on a tune - the first was the solo that Mingus played on the original recording. He then followed it with his own interpretation. Maldin told me after the concert that digging deep into Mingus's music was “eye opening" for him in terms of the jazz great's virtuosity . “Once I understood how he wrote, it was clear what approach to take in my own soloing," Mauldin said. “You can see his classical knowledge in his writing."

Mingus died from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 1979 at age 56. His impact on jazz remains profound 35 years later.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
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