Jazz is often wrongfully smeared as an art form that’s stuck in the past, mired in rote imitation instead of innovation. It might be Wynton Marsalis choosing to ignore jazz’s development after 1960 or a young saxophonist slavishly aping Coltrane’s flights of fancy—either way, jazz seems to many casual listeners like a musical coelacanth. As one of jazz’s greatest innovators once said, “If Charlie Parker was a gunslinger, there’d be a lot of dead copycats.”
Well, it’s not any of those things. In fact, jazz is a vibrant art form, unique in that it reinvents itself every time it’s played. It’s a living expression of our culture’s endless fascination with language, and this Saturday at Marty’s Bar, Michael Glaser’s “Mingusphere” project is paying homage to arguably the two greatest devotees of that fascination: Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk.
One of the most striking personalities in jazz’s long and colorful history, Charles Mingus was the uncompromising genius behind such classic albums as Mingus Ah Um and Blues & Roots. Thanks to one frivolous question—who the hell would write a fight song for Haiti?—he’s also responsible for the coolest damned song ever pressed on vinyl, “The Haitian Fight Song.”
Thelonious Monk, instantly recognizable from his iconic porkpie hat, pioneered an unorthodox, dramatic style on the piano that could veer from melancholy to aggressive in the span of a heartbeat. Despite his iconoclastic approach, he wrote some of jazz’s most celebrated and familiar standards, like “Round Midnight,” “Epistrophy” and “Well, You Needn’t.”
The “Mingusphere” project features some of the musicians most associated with carrying on Birmingham’s great jazz legacy, and it’s an ideal choice for performing selections from these titans with just the right balance of reverence and experimentation. The quartet consists of Rob Alley on trumpet, Chad Fisher on trombone, Chris Kozak on bass and ringleader Michael Glaser on drums. The show starts at 7 p.m., and there’s a $5 door charge.
Marty’s is located at 1810 10th Court S. For more information, call (205) 939-0045 or go to martysbar.com.