The 2016 Mingus Hometown Music Festival

April 22, 2016

The road to Tucson, Arizona sparkled with desert trappings. We were intrigued by the surrounding verdant landscape of blossoming Socorro cactus, native to this part of the world, the napol or prickly pear cactus, and the spiny ocatillo with its flaming red fingerlings. Creosote plants vying for the sparse water needed to survive lined the highway. This day would have been my Uncle Charles’s 96th birthday.

 We were scheduled to meet Yvonne Erwin, the creator and organizer of the Mingus Hometown Music Festival, at the Hacienda del Sol Resort. Yvonne had written the foreword for the third edition of Art and Soul of Jazz, a tribute to Charles Mingus, Jr., and is herself an accomplished journalist and jazz musician. It turned out that she lived near the resort, which was north of Tucson.

Highway 10 traffic overflowed with weekend travelers. Several bikers buzzed by us with just inches between our vehicles. Fortunately Cecil had drawn a map from directions secured online, and it was reassuring to see my masterful pilot navigating our journey.

The Hacienda del Sol Resort reminded me of some of the upscale motels we had occupied in Old Mexico. Its design, furnishings, embellished tiles, and ranch-like setting resurrected memories of sets from Western movies of my childhood. We entered through an open arched doorway over a path leading to “registration.”

Yvonne, her husband, Alan Hershowitz, and a couple of their friends soon joined us for dinner at the hotel restaurant. The group was headed for a Judy Collins concert with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.

Cecil and I retired early in anticipation of the hour-long drive the next morning to Nogales and the Mingus Hometown Music Festival.

                     Mingus Festival stage & eating area



     Ken Tittlebaugh, festival supporter

April 23, 16

The festival was held across the street from the entrance to the planned Mingus Hometown Park, which will be erected on the site of the Camp Little Army Base where my grandfather, Charles Mingus, Sr., was stationed just before he terminated his thirty-year military career. It featured jazz bands and vocalists from local high schools, the Sierra Vista Army Jazz band and a local jazz group, the Lopez brothers. All delivered compositions from the Mingus repertoire with enthusiasm and skill.

Gusty winds hampered the sale of Mingus tee shirts and my book. While festival admission was free, I learned that funds from the sale of raffle tickets and the Mingus tee shirts were donated to the Mingus Project, a non-profit organization.

It was gratifying to watch the energetic youngsters perform on the bandstand, something Uncle Charles would have loved, as infusing an appreciation for jazz into youngsters was one of his lifelong goals. 

Thanks again to Yvonne Erwin, her supporters, and the citizens of Nogales for continuing the pursuit of the memorial to Charles Mingus, Jr. Posterity will reap the enduring benefits, musically and historically, of their gifts.