Epitaph (Charles Mingus Album) - 1989 Version

1989 Version

After Mingus's death, the score to Epitaph was rediscovered by Andrew Homzy, director of the jazz program at Concordia University, Montreal. He had been invited by Sue Mingus to catalogue a trunkful of Mingus's handwritten charts and in the process had discovered a vast assortment of orchestral pages written by Mingus with measures numbered consecutively well into the thousands. After some investigation, Homzy realized what it was that he had found and eventually managed to reassemble the Epitaph score. At that point Homzy and Sue Mingus got in touch with Gunther Schuller, who put together an all-star orchestra to play this very demanding piece of music. However, despite the stellar cast that was assembled, problems were again encountered. Thirty years earlier, charts were being copied in the wings before the show. This time, the charts were all computerized, but the software was buggy and again charts were being sight-read at the last minute.

This was no mean feat. Epitaph resembles many other Mingus compositions in level of difficulty. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pointing at a passage in the score said, "That looks like something you would find in an Etude Book... under 'Hard'." And conductor Gunther Schuller stated "The only comparison I've ever been able to find is the great iconoclastic American composer Charles Ives." Despite all these challenges, however, the concert, at Alice Tully Hall in New York's Lincoln Centre in 1989, was a triumph, if ten years too late for Charles Mingus to enjoy it. The same personnel performed the piece two days later at the Wolf Trap Farm Park outside of Washington, DC. A double-CD was later released by Columbia/Sony Records. The concert was also filmed, and broadcast on U.K. television around 1990.

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