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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Charles Mingus - Epitaph'
(Charles Mingus / DVD / NR / (2006) 2009 / Eagle Rock)

Overview: On June 3rd, 1989, the Alice Tully Hall at New York's Lincoln Center was the venue for the world premiere performance of Charles Mingus' masterpiece "Epitaph". Conductor Gunther Schuller directed 30 musicians in what the New York Times described as "One of the most memorable jazz events of the decade".

DVD Verdict: Charles "Charlie" Mingus, Jr. was an American jazz bassist, composer, bandleader, and pianist. He was also known for his activism against racial injustice. "The Angry Man of Jazz," Mingus is considered one of the most important composers and performers of jazz, and he recorded many highly regarded albums.

Dozens of musicians passed through his bands and later went on to impressive careers. His tunes—though melodic and distinctive—are not often re-recorded, in part because of their unconventional nature. Mingus was also influential and creative as a band leader, recruiting talented and sometimes little-known artists whom he assembled into unconventional and revealing configurations.

Not one to play by the systems rules, whether or not in his lifetime he kinda knew 'Epitaph' would never be recorded or performed is neither here nor there. Anyway, with this masterpiece, truly, at just under two complete hours in length, 'Epitaph' is just that for the Charles Mingus appreciation society.

The story goes that ten years after Mingus’ death, a group of musicologists painstakingly restored and copied the work, giving it its wondrous debut at New York’s Alice Tully Hall. Complete with an all-star assemblage of musicians, including trumpeters Randy Brecker and an up-and-coming Wynton Marsalis, the finished article is breathtaking, to say the least.

Contained along with the music are the spoken words and handclapping segment known as “Freedom,” where the entire piece begins to step up a notch in cohesion. And sure, there are some bum notes, some missed claps here and there, but nothing can be perfect in life ... can it?! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs