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Charles Mingus: Epitaph

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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(Apr 28, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

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". The piece had been discovered after Mingus' death in 1979 and painstakingly restored and copied. It is the largest and longest piece for jazz orchestra ever written and is now available here on DVD for the first time.

TRACK LISTING
1) Main Score: Part One 2) Percussion Discussion 3) Main Score: Part Two 4) Started Melody 5) The Soul 6) Untitled Ballad 7) Moods In Mambo 8) Self Portrait: The Chill Of Death 9) O.P. (Oscar Pettiford) 10) Please Don't Come Back From The Moon 11) Monk, Bunk And Vice Versa 12) Peggy's Blue Skylight 13) Wolverine Blues 14) The Children's Hour Of Dream 15) Freedom 16) Untitled Interlude 17) Better Get Hit In Your Soul 18) Noon Night 19) Main Score Reprise


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Directors: Humphrey Burton
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Eagle Vision
  • DVD Release Date: April 28, 2009
  • Run Time: 131 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001NP8PRQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,489 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

5 star
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1 star
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Mingus fans should not hesitate to pick this up. It nicely captures the premier performance of this colossal work, live at Lincoln Center in 1989. A CD was released soon after the event, but apparently the DVD just came out in 2009. The audio quality of the DVD is very good, and the camera work is outstanding. The DVD makes it easier to follow the structure of this complex music, and you more fully experience the energy and passion of the musicians.

The nearly two hour composition consists of 18 movements or sections. Several of these are re-orchestrated, expanded versions of well-known Mingus songs. Others were conceived directly for a large 30 piece ensemble. The history of EPITAPH is not well-known, but it appears that Mingus worked on it intermittently for most of his career. Most of the score was intact, although Gunther Schuller--who ably conducts the orchestra--apparently had to piece together a few loose ends. Schuller's original, informative liner notes from the CD are included.

Overall, this is quintessential Mingus, with the remarkable gutsy sound, driving energy, and powerful punctuations you'd hope for and expect. Key soloists include Randy Brecker, Wynton Marsalis (trumpets), Bobby Watson, John Handy, George Adams (saxophones), Sir Roland Hanna and John Hicks (pianos). But, heck, all 30 of these talented players solo at various times. One 11 minute section includes nearly 100 little solos, providing "an ever changing kaleidoscope of instrumental color" (Schuller). Throughout most of the piece, everyone appears to be playing to a tight score (with limited improvisation), and the writing is ingenious, with ideas and sounds rarely heard in jazz.
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This concert was a labor of love by all concerned, for some, love for Charles Mingus, for others, for the music, and it shows. Right down to the guitar soloist unable to dry the sweat stinging his eyes but playing wonderfully.

A terrific performance of incredible music.
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The enthusiasm and love for Mingus' music shines through this performance along with the excellence of the musicianship itself. I'm hardly a Mingus connoisseur, but this video is well worth it as an introduction to his music or a monument to his life and musical achievement.
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