LIVE AT FOUNDRY 616
Tribute bands usually cause me adverse health reactions, like running screaming from the room or sitting endlessly asking “Why?” Somehow Mingus Amongst Us leaves me hale and hearty. Perhaps it is that baritone saxophonist Steve Fitzmaurice’s primary concern with the project seems to be to evoke the spirit of Charles Mingus: to catch the rampaging energy, the bluesy, churchy soulfulness, the swinging grooves and startling solos.
It helps that Mingus was one of the greatest of all jazz composers, so the pieces are like jet intakes that instantly suck you in and mince you up in a mad whirl of tempo changes, ferocious drive and drop-dead beauty. Brendan Clarke has the tough gig of taking on the Mingus bass parts, and does it with appropriately vigorous propulsion. The nine-piece band groans with exciting soloists, among whom alto saxophonist Peter Farrar and trombonist James Greening are especially electrifying here. With this band I even have an answer to the “Why?” question: because, with its spirit intact, you still hear the music anew through the prism of different improvisers.