DVD: Charles Mingus’ “Epitaph”

April 22nd, 2010, 10:46 am by Greg

Charles Mingus: EpitaphToday marks the 88th anniversary of the birth of the great jazz composer and bassist Charles Mingus. In his honor, here’s a review of the DVD “Charles Mingus’ Epitaph,” released by Eagle Eye Media last year:

He got the short end of the stick in Ken Burns’ PBS series “Jazz,” which too many people consider to be the defining history of the musical genre.

But Charles Mingus was not only one of the greatest American composers in jazz history. He was also – to put it bluntly – a force of nature. So it’s difficult to know just where to begin with “Epitaph,” a mindbogglingly ambitious work that Mingus intended would sum up his vast musical talent as well as his long and varied career.

After Mingus died in 1979, “Epitaph” was assembled and painstakingly restored to its intended splendor. Ten long years after his death, the work was finally performed at the Alice Tully Hall at New York City’s Lincoln Center on June 3, 1989. The New York Times described it as “one of the most memorable jazz events of the decade.”

Now two decades after that, the very same performance of “Epitaph” is finally available on DVD for the first time in all of its epic glory. And I don’t use the phrase “epic glory” lightly.

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