REVIEW: First night of the 2016 Mingus Big Band residency at Ronnie Scott’s

The Mingus Big Band. Photo copyright Carl Hyde

Mingus Big Band
(Ronnie Scott’s. 25th January 2016. First Set. First night of six. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The strong, reliable dose of New York caffeine that the Mingus Big Band provides should be available on prescription. It’s not just the music, it’s also the constant whooping, wise-cracking and encouragement the members of the band give each other. The whole experience is energizing.

The band is popular, and understandably so: most of this week is sold out. Bassist Boris Kozlov was pleased to call Ronnie Scott’s their ‘second home,’ after the Jazz Standard in New York where they have been since 2004. Ronnie Scott’s MD Simon Cooke called their six-night, twelve-show residency “the best week of the year.”

Fortunately, only one of the players booked, trombonist Chris Bates, had been prevented from travelling by the East Coast blizzards, but his place was ably taken by Paul Taylor. This year’s crop has some real stars. Baritone Ronnie Cuber is in the house, and the audiences who get to hear him play the opening baritone feature on Moanin’ Mambo (here on video) will be fortunate indeed.

There are other links with the Mingus past too, notably the bass trombone and tuba player Earl McInytre, who was also a regular fixture in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band throughout its history.

That feeling of devil-may-care spontaneity is ever-present, as on two or three occasions a couple of soloists simultaneously jumped to their feet, so that one had to back off. What’s all that about America being ‘The Land of the Me…..’?

Star soloist Wayne Escoffer. Photo copyright Carl Hyde

Among the soloists, Brixton-born tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, with his huge sound and presence, stole the show with a tenor feature. Also impressive was nimble, light-fingered, allusive pianist Theo Hill. The trumpets were understandably holding back a bit, particularly in their section playing. Those lips have a long week ahead of them.

The final sequence brought O.P., Mingus’ tribute to Oscar Pettiford, with Boris Kozlov‘s superb bass playing to the fore, and Self Portrait in Three Colours.

Master of  ceremonies bassist Boris Kozlov. Photo copyright Carl Hyde
The early support set had come from George Crowley‘s Quartet with Michael Janisch and Minnesota guitarist Zacc Harris. I just heard the fizzing energy of their final number, which set the scene well for what was to come.

The full line-up 

LINKS: Review of Mingus Big Band from 2013
Review from 2012
Interview with Sue Mingus from 2012

Categories: miscellaneous

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