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Ethan Philion’s Meditations On Mingus at North Street Cabaret
September 10, 2022 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm$20
Chicago jazz bassist Ethan Philion and collaborators play here behind the new release Meditations On Mingus, which revisits eight of bassist-composer Charles Mingus’ compositions in all their elaborate detail and bristling grandeur. The album focuses on Mingus works that make the most overt references to struggle and social injustice, opening with “Once Upon a Time There Was a Holding Corporation Called Old America.”
Philion leads a 10-piece band that includes: trumpeters Russ Johnson and Victor Garcia, saxophonists Rajiv Halim, Geof Bradfield, and Max Bessesen, trombonists Norman Palm and Brendan Whalen, pianist Alexis Lombre, and drummer Dana Hall. The ensemble is not only up to the technical quirks of Mingus as a composer—his penchant for pushing instruments outside of their usual pitch range, jaggedy swarms of criss-crossing trumpet, trombone, and sax phrases—but also inhabits the beauty and fury that make the work feel so powerful and fresh today.
As bassist and bandleader, Philion admirably pulls off challenges like the introductory solo to “Hatian Fight Song,” and closes things on a note of joy with “Better Git It In Your Soul,” the opening track of 1959’s beloved Mingus Ah Um. The most dazzling feat here, though, is the 15-minute “Meditations for a Pair of Wirecutters,” on which a flurry of tricky horn arrangements occasionally pull back for expansive solos from Lombre and Philion. In person at a smaller venue like North Street Cabaret, this ensemble will likely make an even more palpable connection between Mingus’ extraordinary work and the rage and tumult we’re living through now. —Scott Gordon
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