How did the project come about?
Andy Pickett: “I’ve always been a big fan of Mingus, since I first got into jazz, and Mingus Ah Um was one of the first jazz albums that I bought way back in the days before CDs. As a player I’ve long wanted to try and play some of the this music and to try and capture in some small way the essence of the music and having asked around it quickly became apparent that lots of other musicians felt the same way. I started arranging the music a couple of years ago when I broke my shoulder falling off my bike on the downs and was unable to play for a couple of months but they were put on the back burner once I was able to pick up a horn again. I’ve finally got around to finishing them (with some help from David Beebee and my brother Martin, a fine piano player from Oxford who are both contributing arrangements). The intention with the Octet is to capture the spirit of Mingus’s music, rather than to play faithful recreations of the recordings, and we’re fortunate that we have such great musicians locally that can rise to this challenge.”
What do you like most about the music of Charles Mingus?
Andy Pickett: “I love the excitement of Mingus’s music and the sense that the musicians are hanging on by the seats of their pants! The appeal for me is that his music is instantly recognisable and could only have been created by Mingus, bringing together soul, gospel and early jazz elements, particularly collective improvisation whilst being avant-garde and political in intention.”
Terry Pack: “I like Mingus' originality.”
David Beebee: “I like the energy that the band always have, it is infectious.”
Milo Fell: “I love Mingus' approach to music, both the compositions and the unrestrained freedom with which he played them.”
Are there any tunes that you're really looking forward to playing?
Andy Pickett: Los Mariachis and Open Letter to Duke.
Terry Pack: Fables of Faubus and Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.
David Beebee: I am trying to do an arrangement of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat at the moment so I am looking forward to hearing how that sounds, but I am looking forward to playing the less well known tunes the most because I have played them so little, a few I have never played, and they deserve to be played.
Milo Fell: When I lived in Manchester I played with a Mingus band led by bassist Jon Thorn, so I've played a lot of the tunes before. Fables of Faubus is always fun to play. Reincarnation of a Lovebird is a favourite that I haven't played before. Shame we're not doing Better Get It In Your Soul (hint – Andy).