|When the world continues to make little sense and human beings resort to violence against one another, music offers hope, insight, and healing space. Charles Mingus stands as one of America’s greatest 20th century composers and he has few peers in confronting senseless violence with music. April 22, 2022 will be the centennial of his birth.
For the past month, I’ve been immersed in his extended composition, “Mediations On Integration,” otherwise known as “Meditations On A Pair of Wire Cutters,” or “Praying With Eric.” The piece premiered 58 years ago this month in March of 1964 at a concert at Cornell University. It was played and recorded again live at Town Hall in early April followed by an extensive European tour that tragically ended up being Eric Dolphy’s last performances with Mingus. Dolphy died due to medical malpractice in a German hospital two months later. Mingus made a quartet recording of “Mediations” Live at the Jazz Workshop in June of ’64 then re-orchestrated it for eleven pieces to premiere at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September earning an extended standing ovation.
The piece captures some of the intense emotions of the period when peaceful calls for racial justice and equality were often met by hatred and violence. It is unique in its length and its combination of scored material and extended improvisations and iconic in that it previews much of what happened next in jazz. Even so, the piece is not often performed perhaps because of its fluctuating nature. Many live recordings exist and no two of them are close to being the same. In this way it is a perfect jazz work pulling together the known and the unknown, leaving just enough space for the performers to bring their unique take on the music, emotions, social content and present moment.
“Meditations On Integration” is just as potent and relevant now in 2022 as it was in 1964 and we will make our best effort to convey that experience to listeners at my upcoming final concert to earn my Doctorate in Musical Arts (DMA) at Stony Brook University, to be held at The Jazz Loft on April 19th, 2022 on the 58th anniversary of Mingus’ Paris Concert.
For those far away from Stony Brook, stay tuned for information about a second performance of the work that will be streamed on April 22, 2022, the centennial of Charles Mingus’ birth.
Thank you to all my teachers, especially Ray Anderson, director of jazz studies at Stony Brook, for shepherding me through the DMA as well as teaching an old dog some new tricks!
Thank you to my mentors, especially Walter Perkins who first showed me the fire of Mingus as he knew it having played with him on LP Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, as well as Barry Harris, who split the planet this past December but lives on in the work of hundreds of us around the globe doing our best to pass on his rich legacy of music and learning.
And may the music continue to heal us all and keep our spirits up while we strive to make a better world for each other and those coming down the pike.
Hug and help someone soon as you can and I hope to see you soon,