Thursday, February 13, 2014

Celebrating Our Bassist Instincts: Program of Mingus Music Delights (for Low Dough) at NU -- Chicago Jazz Review

Jazz Review

Northwestern University Jazz Orchestra
The Music of Charles Mingus
featuring conductor Victor Goines
and guest trumpeter Ryan Kisor
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
February 12, 2014
Excellent (no star rating)

What can $6 get you these days?

A Big Mac value meal at McDonald's?

A grande latte at Starbucks?

A small tub of popcorn at a movie?

How about 90 minutes of sublime jazz music, composed by the legendary double bassist Charles Mingus and performed by 20+ Northwestern students--whose combined education costs over $1 million annually--abetted by an acclaimed guest trumpeter and conducted by Victor Goines, one of the world's most esteemed jazz musicians and director of NU's Jazz Studies program?

To my admittedly non-expert ears, the NU Jazz Orchestra's renditions of Mingus classics like "Sue's Changes," "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Ecclusiastics," "Haitian Fight Song," "Moanin'" and others were absolutely superb and delightful. I couldn't have wanted the performance to be any better.

I won't bother with an official star rating, as these were students--excepting guest trumpeter Ryan Kisor--and not only do I lack the need & wherewithal to judge them, but the Mingus program they played was a one & done concert, so it's not like I can recommend you go see it.

But for just $6, my friend Ken and I certainly enjoyed @@@@@ worth of value.

And I write this brief review not just to commend all the musicians I heard--along with Kisor, notable standouts included Nathan Zaporski on alto sax, Roy McGrath on tenor sax, Michael Jones on lead trumpet and Alex Warshawsky covering the Mingus parts on double bass--but to suggest how easy, inexpensive, comfortable and enriching it can be to attend live music and arts performances of many kinds.

Mind you, I go to performances at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera, Harris Theater, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Broadway in Chicago and elsewhere for relatively little money--and find them all worthwhile.

And heck, Ken and I recently went to see the Patricia Barber Quartet at the Green Mill for just a $7 cover charge and free parking.
The late, great Charles Mingus

But even if professional performances, or those at high-profile venues, are a bit beyond your budget--or you're hesitant to try something you're not sure you'll like--local colleges and community arts organizations offer a plethora of opportunities to see quality shows & concerts for, well, no more than a McDonald's Value Meal.

I could say I'm lucky to live within 15 minutes of Northwestern University, long one of the world's premier institutions and a leader in theater and music curricula, whose students have to be quite amazing just to get in.

But when I used to live across the street from College of DuPage, I took in some nice performances there. I've attended shows at Northeastern Illinois University, Loyola University, University of Chicago, Lake Forest College, Wheaton College, North Central College, Roosevelt University, my alma mater Northern Illinois University and elsewhere. 

Without even looking, I'm sure I could easily find something worthwhile to see--probably just this week--at DePaul, Columbia College, UIC, Oakton Community College and probably any other institute of higher learning, here or anywhere.

At times, colleges will host visiting performers, which may cost more than $6 but usually still be a relative bargain. But many student performances--in classical, jazz, opera, theater, dance and more--are free or dirt cheap, despite being held in attractive halls with free parking typically quite plentiful nearby (as is the case at NU). 

Heck, as I was writing this, I just agreed to go with my mom to see a production of the great musical Cabaret tomorrow night at Northwestern. So in reiterating my kudos to the Northwestern University Jazz Orchestra for their terrific take on the great Charles Mingus, I end this by suggesting you venture out to a performing arts center or even just recital hall at a local college sometime soon, for less money & effort than you may imagine and more enjoyment than you may envision.

For as Sally Bowles sings in Cabaret:

"What good is sitting alone in your room, come hear the music play."

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