Tribute to jazz great Mingus swings into Nogales hometown
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Tribute to jazz great Mingus swings into Nogales hometown

Did you know that one of the most important figures in 20th century American music was born in Nogales? A festival this weekend will honor innovative jazz bassist, bandleader and composer Charles Mingus.

The 8th annual Charles Mingus Hometown Music Festival will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The tribute will be held at the First Bank Yuma Nogales Business Center, 825 N. Grand Ave., across from what was once the entrance to an all-black Army camp where Mingus' father was stationed when the jazz giant was born 1922.

The event will offer a variety of live music starting with jazz bands from Rio Rico and Patagonia high schools, along with the Pima Community College Jazz Band, Los Nawdy Dawgs, the Challenger Elementary School Choir, Lo Bros, and ending with the Nogales High School Jazz Band.

The free event will feature food vendors and a beer garden, as well as a day of music.

Alivia Schooler Hugg, Mingus' niece, and Carol Bowie, her sister, will be present with copies of their book, "The Art and Soul of Jazz: A Tribute to Charles Mingus, Jr."

At the creative height of his career in the 1950s and '60s, Mingus was one of the most creative jazz bandleaders, building on roots in bebop, swing and the blues as he recorded groundbreaking works such as "Pithecanthropus Erectus," "Mingus Ah Um," and what is often referred to as his masterpiece, "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady."

Although he gained an early reputation for his compositions — he began writing music as a teenager — Mingus also possessed formidable skills on the bass. Many of his works center around a pulsating bassline, accompanied by his precise orchestrations. Some of his late '50s work foreshadowed the free jazz of the next decade.

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Since his 1979 death, Sue Mingus, his widow, has kept his music alive through the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, and Mingus Orchestra.

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Mingus plays on the bicentennial, July 4, 1976.

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