Mingus Hometown Music Festival

April 22, 2017

 

Nogales, Arizona

9th Annual Charles Mingus Hometown Jazz Festival

 

The crowd couldn’t have been more delighted when saxophonist Brandon Wright blew the first notes of “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” the legendary world bassist’s tribute to Lester Young. Except when the MI Corps Big Band from Fort Huatuca broke out with a stunning rendition of “Fables of Faubus.”  Wright’s flawless delivery, punctuated with soaring rifs, stirred the crowd to applause, and when the band finished its set, not surprisingly, a standing ovation.

 

 Special guest Wright, who performs with the New York City Mingus Big Band, earlier acknowledged that “Porkpie Hat” was his favorite Mingus song, and that when he first heard it, he knew jazz was his life’s calling. He said the medium has given him treasured opportunities like spending this week working with enthusiastic young jazz musicians in Tucson.

 

Nogales Arizona leans against its sister city Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, where cars crossing the border were backed up this Saturday like a Monday morning commute on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge.  So it was no wonder that Mingus’s famed protest song was welcomed by concert attendees, many of whom drove the 70 plus miles from Tucson to attend this annual event. “Fables of Faubus” is as pertinent in today’s political climate, tinged as it is with open racism and the potential of a wall separating the two countries, as it was in the 1960s, when minorities and women struggled against institutionalized racism and bigotry.

 

Mingus Hometown Project Director Yvonne Erwin this day realized her decades old dream of dedicating the Charles Mingus Memorial Park at the entrance to Camp Little, a former army base where my grandfather, Charles Mingus, Sr. was stationed. Camp Little is the birthplace of Charles Mingus, Jr.  and siblings—including my mother Vivian and her sister Grace. The community support was inspiring as were comments by local dignitaries, including Nogales Mayor John Doyle who promised continuing city support for the Project.

 

Significantly, this April 22 would have been Mingus’s 95th birthday.