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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 3, 2006

The Mingus Big Band Returns To Hancher Feb. 21

The Mingus Big Band, the living legacy of influential bassist, composer, bandleader and civil rights activist Charles Mingus, will return to the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 as part of the UI celebration of Black History Month.

Time Out New York called the Mingus Big Band "the hippest big band in the universe," and that label reflects the band's combination of awesome chops and playful attitude. There is nothing staid and formal about this aggregation of jazz virtuosos. As the New York Times put it, they perform Mingus' music "the brawling, muscular, hard-swinging, bluesy way he wanted it played."

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."

Geoffrey Himes of The Washington Post wrote that "the best jazz orchestra in the world bears the name of the Mingus Big Band . . . a remarkable high standard of musicianship, energy and consistency."

The band has eight recordings to its credit, and half of them have been nominated for Grammy Awards. Its newest, "I Am Three," received a 4-Star rating in the September 2005 issue of Downbeat, and has been nominated for a "Best Large Jazz Ensemble" Grammy.

A regular at New York's Iridium Jazz Club and the Fez in Greenwich Village, the Mingus Big Band also tours extensively -- including a raucous performance for an enthusiastic Hancher audience in 2001.

Mingus was one of the most important figures in 20th-century American music -- an importance that is increasingly recognized. 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 also played with Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and Lionel Hampton before forming his own boundary-challenging ensemble.

The band he created to perform his own compositions put him at the forefront of progressive jazz, 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 in 1979 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 ongoing work of the Mingus Big Band, the Mingus Orchestra and the Mingus Dynasty.

In addition to the concert, members of the band and UI jazz students will be featured in a Feb. 21 jazz clinic on the Iowa Communications Networks, linking the Mingus Big Band with classrooms throughout the state of Iowa.

The concert is presented by the media support of the Gazette.

Tickets are $35/32/28; UI student $31.50/15; senior citizen $31.50/28.80/25.30; youth $24.50/22.40/19.60.

Hancher Auditorium box office business 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. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

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: <>.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

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