Friday, Mar 15 2013 04:19 PM

Jazz workshop jams to sounds of famed bassist Charles Mingus

BY SUSAN SCAFFIDI Contributing writer

Having founded his own jazz workshop, legendary bassist Charles Mingus would surely be pleased knowing that his music will be performed at the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop next week.

The BC Jazz Ensemble will perform an entire program of Mingus' music on Wednesday.

Related Info

Bakersfield College Jazz Ensemble at the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Le Corusse Rouge, 4647 White Lane

Admission: Free

"This will be a warm-up performance for two concerts the ensemble is doing next month," said director Kris Tiner.

Tiner said the ensemble will perform twice more in April, once at Bakersfield College's Red and White Wine and Food Festival on April 12, and again in an even more comprehensive all-Mingus program on April 25 at the BC gymnasium.

Tiner has included arrangements of Mingus' compositions in several of the ensemble's concerts over the years. Tiner said he has been collecting arrangements from the Mingus Big Band, which performs in New York City.

"I looked at the library and realized I had enough for an entire show," Tiner said. "So I decided to go for it."

"(The Mingus Big Band) really stayed faithful to the original combo arrangements," Tiner said. "But occasionally they have these insane little magic moments."

Tiner said his own interest in Mingus' music comes from the completeness of the composer's references in his work.

"You can listen to one piece and hear the entire history of jazz in it," Tiner said. "He blends together everything from New Orleans to blues and swing to bop with the free improvisational."

"And he has a sense of humor," Tiner said.

Born on a military base in Nogales, Ariz., in 1922, Charles Mingus' life and career really did encompass the entire spectrum of jazz music. Raised on a mix of church music and radio broadcasts of Duke Ellington and his orchestra, Mingus studied bass and composition formally from the principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic. He followed up his studies with tours with such seminal jazz players as Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Lionel Hampton.

From the roots of jazz to the forefront of bop and jazz as art music -- Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Art Tatum and Ellington -- and finally as a bandleader in his own right, Mingus' work as a composer and performer became the sum total of his life experience, something Tiner said made Mingus' music a great education for his students.

"You get to talk about playing blues and swinging," Tiner said. "And you can also talk about getting into the atmosphere and the spirit of it."

Mingus eventually founded a jazz workshop, providing a venue and resource for young musicians to have their works performed and recorded. A leader of the avant-garde with recordings such as "Pithecanthropus Erectus," "The Clown," "Mingus Dynasty" and others, Mingus came full circle in his career with a teaching stint at State University of New York at Buffalo, plus music for the concert hall and an autobiography. Mingus was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and died in 1979.

Tiner noted some veteran members of the ensemble will be featured at Wednesday's performance, including trumpeter Jorge Santos, alto saxophonist Ben Murphy, and at the very heart of the ensemble, the band's two bassists, upright bass player Adam Zanoff and electric bassist Michael O'Hearn.

"Without a bass contingent like this, the music would not come off at all," Tiner said. "This just looked like the year."

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