for solo baritone saxophone(2016, revised in 2019)
Inspired by some of my favorite licks that Charles Mingus ever wrote, this piece, originally written for solo baritone saxophone, is meant to swing hard. MO’INGUS takes snippets of baselines, riffs, background lines, and melodies, all strung together in a sound collage slightly reminiscent of the solo Bach pieces I’ve loved and performed throughout the years.
When I was in middle school, my parents gave me the “Mingus Big Band: The Essential Mingus Big Band” album, and immediately his music became on oof the biggest reasons I wanted to play saxophone. I can still sing every single note of that entire album because I listened to it so often. The sweeping emotional range of his works and how he seemed to write each performer an equally crucial part in his sound structure has been a major influence on my writing. It’s like each floor of the song buildings he built has a totally different vibe, but if one of them goes missing, the whole thing tumbles down.
On the other end of the music spectrum, I have long loved Bach, and the beautifully intricate solo cello puzzle pieces that he wrote. I had the opportunity to perform his first cello suite on my senior saxophone recital in undergrad on Bari Sax. I spent nearly a year diving in traditional (and non-traditional) performances, learning bowing and how to correlate that to breathing, and the beautiful nuances of Baroque ornamentation. Because of the hours and hours and hours and hours shedding the suite, it became thoroughly embedded in my subconscious. When I started to write MO’INGUS, I had so many different fragments of sounds I wanted to include, but had to figure out a way to coherently string them together monophonically that hinted at what the rest of the band was doing, but didn’t get in the way of the melody. I wanted the listener to just have enough information that their minds could fill in the blanks that the ‘ghost band’ plays behind the sax.
Mingus wrote and performed some of the most influential music in American history, and his colossal library of repertoire spans the full length, breath, and depth of sounds and emotions. If you haven’t had the opportunity to dive into his rep, get to it my friend. Mingus was a huge man in so many ways. His passion, empathy, that rage, the soul, his fiery energy... Mingus was a brilliant man possessed by sound. He once said:
“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird-- that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple complicated is commonplace -- making the complicated simple ,awesomely simple-- that’s creativity.”
This piece is my own small reflection in tribute to the “Angry Man of Jazz,” and man I hope I condensed the whole hubbub of his stuff in my brain down to something he’d be proud of.