Where is the Charles Mingus Revival?

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Charles Mingus, Lonnie Hillyer and Charles McPherson onstage at the 1964 Monterey Jazz festival. (Ray Avery/charlesmcpherson.com)

Amid all our turbulent politics, racial division, our president declaring an emergency that he openly admits he doesn't need to declare, general widespread discontent and malaise, I keep asking myself: where is the Charles Mingus revival?

Mingus, the outspoken, fiercely political jazz composer and bassist, seems tailor-made for 2019. Look at his lifelong fights against racial discrimination and corrupt greed among the wealthy. Look at his hard-driving compositional canon, a whirlwind of music by turns uplifting and angry or sad. Or, just look at his song titles: "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A.," "Meditations on Integration," "Remember Rockefeller at Attica," "Prayer for Passive Resistance."

Until it spreads nationwide, the answer to the question "where is the Mingus revival" is, for two nights at least, in San Jose. As part of the two-week San Jose Jazz Winterfest, running through Feb. 27, the SJZ Collective pays tribute to the larger-then-life bassist with a sextet concert of Mingus compositions at Cafe Stritch (Feb. 23; $15–$18).

Then, on Feb. 27, a living bridge to Mingus' music hits the Stritch stage as Charles McPherson performs with his quartet. McPherson, a key element of classic Mingus albums such as Mingus at Monterey and Let My Children Hear Music. As a leader in his own right, his expression and tone straddle early traditions of bebop and the turbulent avant-garde. In the intimate confines of Cafe Stritch, it should be a rewarding set for a jazz master.


Charles McPherson plays Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Cafe Stritch in San Jose. Details here. For the full San Jose Jazz Winterfest 2019 lineup, including the Bad Plus, Marcus Shelby, and Catherine Russell, see here.