Mingus At 100

Mingus At 100: Mike Richmond, Boris Kozlov, and John Benitez

April 22, 2022 marked the 100th anniversary of Charles Mingus’s birth, and even 43 years after his death, the genius composer and bassist is still an enormously influential figure in the world of jazz and beyond. His music can be dense, delicate, aggressive, ethereal, complex, or simple. But no matter the context, there’s a truth in it that cuts you to the core.

The bassist’s legacy has been carried on by his widow, Sue Mingus, who formed the Mingus Dynasty bands following his death. Each format of the band has been busy this year with performances to celebrate his centennial, including four nights surrounding the date at Dizzy’s Club in New York City. The 14-piece Mingus Big Band performed the first two nights (April 21-22) including special guest appearances by Mingus pianist Danny Mixon and famed singer Elvis Costello (who collaborated with Sue in the 1990’s and wrote lyrics for the Mingus song “Invisible Lady”). Then the 7-piece Mingus Dynasty performed on April 23rd, followed by the 10-piece Mingus Orchestra on April 24th.

During the Dynasty show on April 23rd, the group had a special surprise for concert-goers: the return of one of Mingus’s own double basses.

The instrument, which was in storage for the four decades since his death, is an old German bass with a distinct cutaway that Mingus had done for him. It was recently refurbished along with his famous Roth “Lion’s Head” bass. Both basses were used at the concert, marking the first time in history they had been playing together on stage.

The concert itself was a bass-heavy event. Mingus Dynasty bassist and musical director Boris Kozlov shared the bass seat with original Dynasty bassist Mike Richmond and alum John Benitez. Trading off for portions of the show, the trio were all on stage for the final number to leave the audience with their jaws on the floor.

We were lucky enough to attend the historic concert and to interview the Richmond, Benitez, and the Mingus Institute’s Zach Kirsimae during their set break on the importance of Mingus, his music, and the basses. We were also able to speak with Kozlov, who drops some serious knowledge, via phone prior to the event.

If you’re looking for new Mingus music, two albums with unreleased material – The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott’s and Trio – are available now.

Special thanks to Boris Kozlov, Zach Kirsimae, Pete Coco, Aaron Campbell, and the staff at Dizzy’s Club.

Photo Credit: Pete Coco Photography

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