Don't Be Afraid: The Music of Charles Mingus

by: Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra/Wynton Marsalis

On Don't Be Afraid, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, performs six arrangements of Charles Mingus songs by trombonist Ron Westray. Unfortunately, compared to the Mingus Big Band, the LCJO lacks the spirit of Mingus and often sounds as if it is a classical or studio ensemble that is merely reading its parts. The notes are correct, but the riotous nature of Mingus' bands, the gut-wrenching group improvisations, and the emotionalism are almost totally missing. A comparison of these versions of "Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" and "Meditation on Integration" to Mingus' own bands finds the LCJO renditions to be a poor second. And while "Don't Be Afraid, the Clown's Afraid Too" is somewhat hilarious as played by the Mingus Big Band, the LCJO version is half-hearted and tame. Other than a few brief moments from Wynton Marsalis, none of the soloists are particularly memorable, and the emphasis of written parts over group improvising makes this a rather dull and disappointing effort. ~ Scott Yanow

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