BigBand der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Titus Engel, conductor
A tribute to Charles Mingus
“Better Git It in Your Soul.” There’s no better way to put it than this title by Charles Mingus himself. To mark the centenary of his birth, the Deutsche Oper Berlin BigBand dedicates a very special concert to the bass playing genius and jazz composer: a chance to hear “Epitaph”, Mingus’s rarely performed magnum opus, which was premiered posthumously thanks to Mingus’s wife Sue and the composer Gunther Schuller. The Berlin line-up includes legendary jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker.
The bass-playing genius and jazz composer Charles Mingus was a legend in his own lifetime. With his big band ensembles of the 1950s and 1960s, he revived an awareness of collective improvisation on stage that had not been experienced since the heyday of New Orleans jazz. In his magnum opus “Epitaph” he created a kind of musical history of jazz, which quoted and adapted the most varied lines of tradition and styles from gospel to Dixieland, to big band swing and bebop and on to free jazz. This monumental, two and a half-hour work for two big bands and additional orchestral elements is a key example of the “third stream” initiated by Gunther Schuller, which attempted to generate a new, genuinely American music by combining jazz with modern classical sounds. Accordingly, in “Epitaph” extended jazz improvisations repeatedly come up against precisely notated passages containing echoes of the music of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. Musikfest Berlin will mark the occasion of Charles Mingus 100th anniversary with a performance of “Epitaph” – a work that was reconstructed ten years after Mingus’s death and only given its first performance by Gunther Schuller in 1989. In Berlin, this composition, which can only be produced with a considerable outlay in terms of performance and technical support, will be conducted by Titus Engel. It will be played by musicians from the Deutsche Oper Berlin BigBand, students from the Jazz-Institut Berlin and star guests, including the trumpeter Randy Brecker, who in the course of a long career also worked together with Charles Mingus himself.