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Release: Dec. 29, 2000

Hancher presents Mingus Big Band Jan. 20, during MLK Week at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Mingus Big Band, the living legacy of influential bassist, composer, bandleader and civil rights activist Charles Mingus, will perform a concert entitled "Blues and Politics" during Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Week at University of Iowa, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20 in Hancher Auditorium.

The concert by the Mingus Big Band -- which a New York Times article described as "the greatest repertory project in jazz history" -- focuses on some of Mingus’ more political pieces, as well as emphasizing the blues at the heart of his music. The tour concert accompanies the release of "Blues & Politics" on the Dreyfuss label.

Both JazzTimes and Down Beat critics and readers have voted the Mingus Big Band the "Best Big Band" for several years running, and in June 1999 the New York Jazz Awards honored the band as both the "Best Big Band" and the "Best Touring Band." JazzTimes has gone so far as to proclaim the Mingus Big Band "the smokingest big band on the planet."

Mingus (1922-1979) was one of the most important figures in 20th century American music -- an importance that is increasingly recognized as a new millennium begins. He was also an angry and outspoken advocate of civil rights.

He began his career in the 1940s, playing with Louis Armstrong and other jazz originators. Mingus helped create bebop, in collaboration with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach and Bud Powell, and played with Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and Lionel Hampton before forming his own boundary-challenging band.

The band he created to perform his own compositions put him at the forefront of the avant garde, and his work -- totaling more than 300 scores, some of which combined jazz and classical idioms -- is documented on more than 100 albums.

After his death from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the National Endowment for the Arts provided funds for a Mingus foundation to catalogue all his works. In 1993 the Library of Congress acquired his scores, recordings, photographs, correspondence and original manuscripts -- a first for jazz -- and in 1995 the U.S. Postal Service issued a Charles Mingus stamp as part of a series of jazz greats.

At the 1997 Grammy Awards ceremony Mingus was posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

His widow, Sue Mingus, has led the effort to preserve and celebrate his work, including overseeing the Mingus Big Band for the past decade.

Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Week, founded in 1993, is coordinated by the UI Office of Student Life, and it is sponsored by numerous UI departments, which organize events to

promote awareness of issues ranging from diversity to social change. Hancher’s observance will also feature a residency by the Philadelphia-based dance company Philadanco, climaxing with a performance on Friday, Jan. 19.

For additional information about Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Week activities at the UI, contact the Office of Student Life at 319-335-3059.

Clarion Hotel & Conference Center is the corporate sponsor of the Mingus Big Band concert, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for the Jan. 20 performance are $28, $26 and $23. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 2 and 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <>.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For UI arts information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>. Learn about the Mingus Big Band at <>.