Mingus' Epitaph

Started by toledobass, April 28, 2007, 06:37:07 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Last night I got to see Mingus' sprawling masterpiece Epitaph.  This is a piece that is easily 2 hours in length and written for double jazz orchestra plus a few other instruments thrown in.  Many of the sax players were doubling if not tripling or quadrupling on other instruments.  Aside from the usual instruments present in thhe big band,  Mingus wrote for tuba,  bass and contra bass clarinet,  timpani,  flute,  enlish horn and oboe,  clarinet,  piccolo,  and I'm sure I'm forgetting something in there.

Mingus never heard the complete Epitaph and the score was only discovered a decade or so after his death.  Parts were produced by Gunther Schuller and a premier at Lincoln Center took place with him conducting.  He also conducted last night.

The piece traverses not only the history of jazz but also has influence from composers that were his contemporaries:  Stravinsky,  Schoenberg etc.  All of it is filtered throught Mingus genius lens.  Some if it is very dense like the opening theme Main Score,  some quite somber and depressing, Self Portrait/Chill of Death.  Some of it just foot stomping fun like his take on Jelly Roll Morton's  Wolverine Blues.  It is quite incredible the amount of styles this music covers.  Some of it as remarked by Schuller probably shouldn't even be classified as jazz.  I agree.  

I can't begin to express what an incredible experience this was for me.  I've had a recording of the premier for years and have listened to it from time to time,  but it was always a piece that I never thought I'd have an opportunity to see a live performance of in my lifetime.  The only bummer part of the wholel thing is that there are only 4 performances of the work.  If you have an opportunity to experience this,  please try to,  even if you've never even heard of Charles Mingus.  If you can't see it in person,  there is a recording that is still readily available.

Here is some more information on the piece and performance dates:


Now if I could find a way to see Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige.......



No Denver, no me....would have loved to taken this one in Allan.
There will never be another era like the Golden Age of Hollywood.  We didn't know how to blow up buildings then so we had no choice but to tell great stories with great characters.-Ben Mankiewicz


I know.  I think it's a real shame that an effort has been made to put on performances but only 4 cities are able to take advantage of it.  The piece is such a tremendously difficult thing to put together.  There were some moments that I thought rivaled the the amount of concentration needed for things like Stravinsky's Sacrificial Dance.  It just doesn't get played often.  I think it was last performed a decade or so ago.  You'd think that with all the work that goes into it,  plus the masterwork status,  plus no one ever getting to hear the thing live all that often would equall them wanting to put on more performances but maybe it's just to hard to schedule all those musicians involved for the small amount of shows already. 

Of course, the CD is still available.  It's not the same but.....