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*** 1/2 MINGUS BIG BAND, "Que Viva Mingus!" Dreyfus

January 11, 1998|Don Heckman

The combination of Charles Mingus' compositional vision and Latin rhythms was a natural--one that reached from the relatively early "Moods in Mambo" (composed in 1949 when he was 27) to pieces such as "Far Wells Mill Valley," the material on his RCA album "Tijuana Moods" and the epic "Cumbia & Jazz Fusion" (recorded in 1978, less than a year before his death).

Exploring that material in extended detail, the Mingus Big Band, bursting with a startling array of talented players--both veterans and newcomers--has produced one of its finest, most representative collections of Mingus' music. There is superb soloing everywhere, especially from saxophonists David Sanchez, Chris Potter, Seamus Blake, John Stubblefield and Mark Shim, from trumpeter Randy Brecker and pianist Dave Kikowski, richly supported by the percussion work of Steve Berrios and Adam Cruz.

But the heart of the album is the Mingus music, arranged with striking authenticity by Earl McIntyre, Mike Mossman, Ronnie Cuber, Steve Slagle, Sy Johnson and others. Pieces such as the complex, multilayered "Moods in Mambo," the genre-blending "Cumbia & Jazz Fusion" and the passionate "Ysabel's Table Dance" are the products of a brilliant musical mind. The extent of that brilliance may have been dulled somewhat during Mingus' lifetime--in part by musical narrow-mindedness, in part by his own eccentricities--but its luster is here fully restored by the dedicated efforts of this marvelous ensemble.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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