Monday, July 22, 2013

Music for a Cause

It was my third benefit in as many days, but truly, I was the beneficiary.

Tonight's philanthropic endeavor was the Mingus Awareness Project at Balliceaux, which provides support for people with ALS, the disease that killed jazz composer Charles Mingus at an incredibly young 56.

Since it also claimed my Richmond grandmother, I feel strongly about donating to the cause.

On the bill tonight were the Jason Jenkins Quartet plus No BS Brass Band, so a full night of serious talent.

But unlike my last two nights of benefit music, tonight's was more of a jazz crowd and that's a horse of a different color.

At tonight's show, the man next to me pours his can of PBR into a glass to drink it.

A glass? I wanted to laugh out loud.

I run into a nerdy friend who has brought a book with him to the show (!) and leave our chat with a recommendation for a must-read biography ("Tonight at Noon: A Love Story").

Readers "R" us.

When two girls sit down in the booth where I'm sitting, one informs me it's her first time here since the place was Bogart's.

How is that possible, I ask her incredulously?

Drummer and organizer Brian Jones kicks things off by introducing the Jason Jenkins quartet featuring trumpet wunderkind Victor Haskins.

As the band starts swinging, people continue to arrive, no doubt surprised at the timely start of a jazz show.

Their set is short and tight and an attentive audience eats it up.

As No BS Brass band sets up, I look around the room, noticing that it's not entirely the usual No BS crowd.

Maybe it's the Mingus part that confused regular fans or maybe it's that it's a Sunday night show starting after 10:30, but let's just say it was a far more adult crowd than many I've seen at No BS shows over the past six years.

"This is our tribute to Mingus," announced trombonist Reggie Pace after putting on his white headband, which always indicates that he means business.

Their set began with a monologue via megaphone courtesy of Chris Bopst on the subject of god, Cuccinelli and vaginas as trombonist Bryan Hooten wailed away on Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square."

Not sure who was more in their element, Hooten blowing or Bopst ranting.

On "Jelly Roll," Reggie tore it up on tambourine, causing the guy near me to wonder, "How anyone can not move to this music is beyond me."

Looking around, I saw Brian Jones, who'll be playing tomorrow night for the second installment of the MAP, standing near the front, grooving in place and smiling widely.

No doubt that was in part due to Lance's drumming (with what sounded like the thickest of drumsticks) as he competed with all those horns to be heard.

Playing all the Mingus songs on No BS' album "Fight Song," Reggie made sure the crowd knew who had arranged and soloed on each one.

A little Marcus here, a little Taylor there, a bit of Bryan here...

It didn't matter which song they played - "Better Git Hit in Your Soul," "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," "Girl of My Dreams," the band took turns sharing the spotlight and wowing the rabid crowd.

There might not have been as much dancing as at a typical No BS show, but the energy of a roomful of Mingus/No BS fans is not to be taken lightly either.

As a friend and jazz-lover had told me earlier, "I'm not very good with money and I only had $5 in my pocket, but this is where I came to spend it tonight."

I could say the same...for the sake of my grandmother and the great Mingus.

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