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As Dee Dee Bridgewater sees it, "Joanne Brackeen is tall, thin and stylish in her wide-brimmed straw hat and silk trousers tonight. And did I mention? Joanne can unleash torrents at the piano." Back when Brackeen was a Jazz Messenger, leader Art Blakey would say, "And now we will feature the pianist, a solo of her choice." We have two.
Trumpeter Ron Miles from Denver has his new brushed-gold Monette trumpet in G (not the conventional B-flat) with the straight mouthpiece. Bill Frisell, from Seattle, has his baby-blue Telecaster and some effects pedals. Reginald Veal from Atlanta says traveling with basses is darn difficult these days; a friend near the club graciously loaned Veal his. And Matt Wilson packed up his drums (hand-crafted in Santa Cruz), bells and cymbals and drove in from Long Island. The quartet phrases "Julia" by Lennon and McCartney almost like a prayer, set up by a quiet meteor shower from Frisell. This is a group that listens to one another.
And this is a room for listening, with irresistible bookings seven nights a week. New York magazine has called Jazz Standard the No. 1 jazz club in the city.
Monday nights here are for Charles Mingus (1922-1979) and the groups that his wife Sue has created to play his music. On New Year's Eve 2008, the Mingus Big Band was live from the Standard on Toast of the Nation from NPR Music. That set is now a CD, due out next week. On JazzSet, "Bird Calls" opens with the sax section "going nuts" in the words of emcee Michael Bourne and leads into "The Cryin' Blues." "Open Letter to Duke" and "Self-Portrait" are two of Mingus' most beautiful, melodic compositions.
Sue Mingus sees to it that bassist Boris Koslov plays Charles' own instrument, with a lion's head carved into the scroll. The band roars, purrs and prowls -- the king of its castle at the Jazz Standard.