The Mingus Project

DAVID WAKEFIELD East Coast Jazz Festival event at the Norwich Arts Centre


The problem for today's jazzmen playing the works of the acknowledged 'greats' of the genre is that those inspirational figures are still so vivid in the memory that they are, in a way, looking on – almost breathing down the necks of the players.

Charles Mingus, for example, died only in the 1970s, still a comparatively young man in terms of what he might still have achieved.

As bassist, leader, writer and innovator, he holds a special place in the heart of anyone who likes jazz that is quirky, humorous and challenging.

The Mingus Project is a group of local players who, quite simply, love the great man's work and have the courage to take it on; for to attempt to play the works of Charles Mingus is not seeking the simple life.

Bolstered by the highly reliable 'engine room' of John Leslie (piano), Dave Holgate (bass) and Colin Berry (drums), a four-man front line duly did battle and emerged triumphant. Tunes like Fables of Fawbus and Boogie Stop Shuffle gave ample solos scope for saxists Simon Youngman (soprano and alto) and Trevor Rowland (tenor) and brassmen Dave Amis (trombone) and Ben Higham (trumpet, flugelhorn and tuba).

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Mingus once asserted that "fine jazz is when a tenor man lifts his foot in the air. Great jazz is when he heaves a piercing note for 32 bars and collapses on his hands and knees".

True, we didn't see much of that – but it was fine jazz all the same.