Legendary US jazz musician and composer Charles Mingus is to be celebrated with a new two-night jazz festival at the Centro Cultural 25 de Mayo.
The Mingus Centennial Festival, marking 100 years since the musician’s birth, takes place this Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30, 2022 at the Centro Cultural 25 de Mayo (Av. Triunvirato 4444), with events kicking off at 8pm on both nights.
Multiple jazz ensembles and the ‘Mingunos’ tribute band are among those performing to celebrate the iconic musician and band leader.
With composer and performer Jennifer Griffith as Artistic Director, the festival will feature renowned saxophonist and composer Dr. Salim Washington as its honoured guest. Producer Ana Carrino and Artistic Producer Manuela Chavez also make up the team behind the centennial celebration.
The festival is also made possible by the Directorate of Artistic Education and the Undersecretariat of Cultural Policies and New Audiences.
As a nod to the promotion of accessibility to the arts, as well as Mingus’s legacy of activism, tickets are free to the public. As of Wednesday afternoon, the events are fully booked.
Legacy & line-up
Mingus was “a prodigious double bassist, big band director, composer and acclaimed jazz pianist,” according to the event’s organisers. “His work (over 100 albums and 300 compositions) and influence spans decades to the present day, and permeates diverse genres of music, improvisation, poetry, theatre, and dance.”
Washington, who hails from Detroit, Michigan, and lives in South Africa, will be performing in Buenos Aires for the first time to honour the 100th birthday of the late musician, who he calls “America’s greatest composer.”
“It’s a kind of unfortunate way of describing him, because art is not like a sporting event where you have winners and losers,” the 63-year-old saxophonist said in an interview with the Times. “But he is a singular figure in terms of the music of [the United States], in terms of what he achieved and the level at which he achieved it.”
Veteran Buenos Aires-based tribute ensemble “Mingunos” – a group that has been dedicated to the music of Mingus for almost a decade – will also take the stage on Friday night.
The festival will also feature renowned jazz artists Emma Famin, Rodrigo Domínguez, Sergio Verdinelli and Juan Bayón, among others.
Griffith, who has lived in Buenos Aires since late 2019, says that apart from Mingunos, the renowned bassist doesn’t have a large following in the City. She recalled proposing a show on Mingus after her first performance in Buenos Aires.
“The response was, ‘Who’s that?’” she remembered.
In efforts to further spread the word, Griffith, Carrino and Chavez are working to organise additional concerts and activities throughout the year. They are also in talks with the Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival to curate a Mingus-themed show at this year’s event.
The upcoming centennial celebration will include a workshop led by Washington on Monday, May 2, for music students at the Manuel de Falla Conservatory.
Washington hopes the workshop, also free of charge, will leave participants with a deeper understanding of the aesthetic of jazz, as well as Mingus’ affinity for making changes to the music and pushing players beyond their comfort levels.
“We’re going to learn this piece, and then we’re going to change it in a way that is Mingus-like, in the sense of making it appropriate for the people that we have here, now,” he said of the workshop’s intended process.
“How can we make this more exciting? How can we push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, and still be true to the music?” he added.
Griffith hopes attendees will leave the festival with a “taste” for Mingus, his music and all it encompasses.
Moreover, Carrino emphasised all there is to learn from the activism Mingus promoted through his work.“We want to be able to bring this here so that we can learn from it,” she told the Times.
“We do have discrimination here,” she continued. “So we can take from this, and learn… and apply all of those fights that we see in the States against discrimination and racism.”
*The full festival line-up can be found on the venue’s website.