ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ : Mingus’ Heirs Apparent : MINGUS BIG BAND, “Gunslinging Birds"** 1/2, <i> Dreyfus</i>
During the last four years, Manhattan’s Time Cafe has played host to various editions of the Mingus Big Band, the repertory ensemble devoted to the music of the late composer-bassist Charles Mingus. This disc captures the 15-piece band in top form, bringing the kind of vivacious, sometimes outrageous feel that Mingus himself pulled from his groups.
Steve Slagle’s arrangements (Gunther Schuller and Jack Walrath also contribute), especially on “Reincarnation of a Lovebird,” may have a touch of contemporary polish that’s missing from the originals, but for the most part the nine tunes are faithful to the vision and spirit of the band’s namesake right down to the shouts of encouragement voiced by the participants.
Great solos abound, including trombonist Frank Lacy on the title tune, pianist Kenny Drew Jr. on “Jump Monk” and tenor saxophonist John Stubblefield on “Hog Callin’ Blues.” A must for Mingus fans.