Tucson, Nogales are ready to celebrate this jazz bassist’s 100th

Before Charles Mingus emerged as one of the most innovative and celebrated jazz musicians of the 20th century, he was beginning his life here in southern Arizona.

Mingus was born in April 1922 at Camp Little in Nogales, Arizona. His father, Charles Mingus, Sr., was a staff sergeant and a Buffalo soldier, stationed there as part of a regiment with the US Army’s 10th Cavalry.

According to the website, Mingus was still quite young when his family moved from Nogales to Watts, California, where he would grow up, absorbing Duke Ellington’s musical influences on radio and the mass songs of his local church. charlesmingus.com,

His Southern Arizona origins had little impact on the musician he would one day become, but his name lives on in the state. And this Friday, April 22, with the 100th anniversary of his birth, jazz fans across the region are ready to party.

On Thursday 21st April, The Century Room Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress, will host a Mingus festival concert, with the Tucson Jazz Institute. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18-$23.

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On Friday, April 22, the Mingus Dynasty, a revolving band of elite jazz players, some of whom performed with Mingus during the day, will play the venue. The group will be joined by alto saxophonists. Charles Macpherson, who worked with Mingus from 1960–74. Scheduled times are 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

The festivities will conclude with the Charles Mingus Centennial Jazz Festival, an all-day, free concert held at First Bank Yuma Nogales Business Center, 825 N. Will be held on Saturday, April 23 at Grand Avenue, Nogales. The festivities, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., will feature local and touring groups, including the Nogales High School alumnus band and Alan Levine Exet. Mingus Dynasty will be in headlines from 3:30 PM

The Mingus dynasty swings through Arizona, which actually begins with a performance at Nash in Phoenix on Thursday, April 21, arranged and performed by Alan Hershovitz, husband of Yvonne Ervin, a tireless promoter of jazz music in southern Arizona, until his untimely death. was sponsored. From complications during surgery in 2018.

Erwin, who served as founding director of the Tucson Jazz Society and launched the Tucson Jazz Festival, had long worked to raise Nogales’ profile as the birthplace of Mingus.

She organized the first Mingus festival in Nogales in 1993, a jazz event that encompassed both sides of the border in 1993, and advocated for years toward the creation of the Mingus Memorial Park, an effort she launched in 2017. saw.

The Mingus Dynasty is playing in Tucson on Friday, April 22, and at Nogales as part of the Mingus Centenary celebrations on April 23.

“The people at Nogales asked me to help with this year’s festival,” Hershovitz said. “They were going to do their usual mix of high school bands and things like that. I asked myself what Yvonne would have done. She would tour together with some of the major people we knew and worked with before. had done.”

Hershovitz reaches out to the Mingus dynasty and its relationship with Macpherson

“The Jazz at Lincoln Center People wanted to book (Charles) with Mingus Big Band on the same date,” Hershovitz said. “He told them, ‘I’m doing this work in Nogales. It’s important to me.’

“It’s resonant to have performed with Mingus, to know his music so well, and to come to celebrate his centennial in Arizona, where he was born.”

In addition to music, the festival will include the dedication of a memorial wall to Mingus that will also pay tribute to Nogales’ black history within Mingus Memorial Park, 10 W. Western Avenue.

The memorial wall features a likeness of Mingus on granite by Nogales artist Faith Posey and mosaic works by artist David Fernandez and students of Nogales High School.

The plaques on the wall are dedicated to the city’s black community, past and present; Buffalo Soldiers stationed at Nogales in the early 1900s; the city’s individual grammar school, the Frank A. Reed School, which closed its doors in 1952; Major George W. Biggs, a Nogales native and Tuskegee Airman, who died in 2020.

The Mingus Memorial Wall features art by Faith Posey and David Fernandez and plaques dedicated to past and present members of the city’s black community.

There is also a plaque dedicated to Erwin in the wall.

Sharon Urman, president of Santa Cruz Advocates for the Arts, the group leading the memorial efforts, said the project took years to build.

“It has evolved from being just a monument dedicated to Charles Mingus, which honors the African American historical presence in the area,” Urman said. “It’s more than just a passion project. It’s about community pride.”

For more information on all the events of the Mingus century, see mingusamongus.com

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