Tonight at Noon…Three or Four Shades of Love (Dreyfus Jazz)

Mingus Big Band

Released April 9, 2002

Grammy Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album 2003




This album is not only a magnificent compilation of ten of Mingus’ compositions, all based on the theme of love, but it is also the first recording of the Charles Mingus Orchestra (on four tracks). And the cherry on top is the participation of the well-known pop singer Elvis Costello on Invisible Lady, for which he also wrote the lyrics. And there is also a Mingus piece which has never before been recorded, Love’s Fury, pulled out of his archives and arranged for the first time for orchestra by Sy Johnson.

This recording marks the 80th anniversary of the composer’s birth. His release will coincide with the publication of Sue Mingus’s memoir on his life with Charles Mingus, Tonight at Noon: A Love Story, published by Pantheon Books.
Artistic director of the Mingus Big Band since its inception, Sue recalls that it was tenor saxophonist John Stubblefield who had the idea to record a collection of Mingus love songs after a concert at Fez. He thought of all the magnificent ballads that the musician had composed. However, as Sue points out, not all of Mingus’s love songs were ballads. She says: “Charles was a very lyrical composer, and people may think that his works are very tormented and explosive compositions – aggressive blues and bebop – but they do not always grasp the breadth and depth of his repertoire. He had a penchant for classical music and wrote many songs with elaborate composition, ballads and more.
While the Mingus Big Band has established itself as the best big band of jazz for more than ten years, the Charles Mingus Orchestra is less known outside of its favorite terrain that is New York. In the past, this orchestra played for example at Meer’s Town Hall in Tribeca and occasionally performed at Fez, enriching the Big Band with instruments such as horn, bassoon, bass clarinet and guitar. It renews the sound of the music of Charles who would certainly have loved to work with this formation.”

The orchestra also received a lot of attention at the end of last year at concerts in New York and Los Angeles in collaboration with Elvis Costello, himself a big fan of Mingus. In fact, Costello has been nourished by Mingus’ compositions from a very young age thanks to his parents. Later, after making a name for himself in the world of pop music, he returned to his first love, participating in particular in Hal Willner’s tribute album, Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus, in 1992, on which he played the mysterious song “Weird Nightmare.” His first collaboration with the Mingus Big Band took place a few years ago during a tour in Brazil. When UCLA University in California offered him, as a resident artist, to be in charge of organizing his concerts, Costello invited the Mingus Big Band. Finally, while enjoying a stay in New York last November for a charity concert for the victims of the attack on September 11, Costello join the orchestra in the studio and record “Invisible Lady”.

Costello commented: “Recently, I started listening to a lot of Mingus again and ended up writing lyrics in response to a suggestion by Sue Mingus, and the titles of these compositions are a real gift for an author like me, I wanted to avoid singing and follow the melodic line, but I also composed new melodies that allow me to act as a soloist, I’m not trying to improve the compositions of Mingus, I’m doing solos on his music. ”

Sue Mingus writes in the cover notes of CD Tonight at Noon… Three or Four Shades of Love: “The theme of love was ubiquitous in the mind of Mingus when he composed.”

We are thrilled that the Mingus Big Band and the Charles Mingus Orchestra continue to maintain Mingus’ great legacy, celebrating and keeping alive his music.

Track Listing:

1. Love Is a Dangerous Necessity (Charles Mingus) 3:31

2. Noon Night (Charles Mingus) 4:09

3. Tonight at Noon (Charles Mingus) 5:57

4. Eclipse (Charles Mingus) 6:06

5. Invisible Lady (Elvis Costello / Charles Mingus) 7:12

6. Passions of a Woman Loved (Charles Mingus) 9:26

7. Sweet Sucker Dance (Charles Mingus) 6:56

8. Devil Woman (Charles Mingus) 5:51

9. Love’s Fury (Charles Mingus) 6:17

10. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Charles Mingus) 16:45


Mingus Big Band

Kenny Rampton, Earl Gardner, Randy Brecker, Alex Sipiagin, Jeremy Pelt: trumpet

Craig Handy, John Stubblefield, Seamus Blake, Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone

Alex Foster: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Vincent Herring: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone

Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone

Ronnie Cuber: baritone saxophone

Conrad Herwig: trombone

Ku-umba Frank Lacy: trombone, vocal

Dave Taylor: bass trombone, tuba

Earl McIntyre: trombone, bass trombone, tuba

Boris Kozlov, Andy McKee: bass

David Kikoski: piano

Johnathan Blake: drums, tambourine

Charles Mingus Orchestra

Michael Rabinowitz: bassoon

Douglas Yates: bass clarinet

Robert Routch: French horn

Adam Rogers: guitar

Seamus Blake: soprano saxophone

Alex Foster: alto saxophone

Scott Robinson: flute

Alex Sipiagin: trumpet

Conrad Herwig: trombone

David Kikoski: piano

Boris Kozlov: bass

Jeff “Tain” Watts: drums

Elvis Costello: vocal

Recorded November 3, 2001 (Charles Mingus Orchestra) and December 7, 2001 (Mingus Big Band)

Producer: Sue Mingus

Production Assistant: Douglas Yoel

Engineer, Mastering and Mixing: Tom Swift

Photography: Tadayuki Naitoh


The legacy of the artistic genius of bassist/composer/bandleader Charles Mingus continues its viability nearly a quarter century after his untimely death. Through the creative vision of his widow Sue Mingus, conductor/arranger Gunther Schuller, arrangers Robbie Cuber, Jack Walrath, Sydney Johnson, and the cadre of New York jazz musicians associated with the Mingus Big Band and Charles Mingus Orchestra, Charles Mingus’ music continues to intellectually provoke and intrigue listeners.
The newest installment by the Mingus Big Band, Tonight at Noon: Three or Four Shades of Love showcases the romantic side of Charles Mingus’ musical opera. Released in April, the same month in which Mingus would have been 80 years old, this CD is a great jazz big band recording in its own right, regardless of any association with Mingus’ music. The CD is full of the elements that make a great big band performance—energetic driving tunes, exciting and creative improvised solos, and sophisticated arrangements that are complex, and aurally compelling. The timbrel palette is also enlarged with the debut of the Charles Mingus Orchestra on four of the CD’s tunes, “Noon Night,” “Tonight at Noon,” “Eclipse,” and “Invisible Lady.” “Invisible Lady” features the vocal talents of Elvis Costello who also wrote the lyrics for Mingus’ composition.
The recording opens with an arrangement of “Love is a Dangerous Necessity,” featuring trumpet and saxophone solos by Randy Brecker and Craig Handy. “Noon at Night” is a colorful ballad that includes double timing and other rhythmic twists familiar in Mingus’ music. The third tune “Tonight at Noon” also has familiar Mingus flair with the underpinning of a bass riff that is passed to the piano to supply foundation for the reeds playing the head. There are again great trumpet and alto saxophone solos, and drummer Jonathan Blake also includes a tasteful solo. On the tune “Eclipse,” the listener is drawn not only to the sensitive introduction played by Adam Rogers on acoustic guitar, but also to the arrangers’ ingenious use of Michael Rabinowitz’s bassoon, adding a voice not frequently heard in jazz. Rabinowitz also improvises a creative and interesting solo followed by another beautiful solo by guitarist Rogers.

The outstanding feature of “Passions of a Woman Loved,” perhaps the centerpiece of the 10 selections on the CD, is that the composition is a rhythmic and metric chameleon. Through various turns of ingenious music wit, modulating through straight ahead swinging, slow ballad, jazz waltz and Latin rhythms the listener is presented with a delightful listening challenge. After the rhythmic workout of “Passions of a Woman Loved,” “Sweet Sucker Dance” is a beautiful down tempo ballad featuring an incredible saxophone solo. The down-home, gospelish side of Mingus is evident in the band’s interpretation of “Devil Woman,” featuring Frank Lacy’s soulful delivery of the tune’s lyric. On another ballad, “Love’s Fury,” the baritone saxophone of Ronnie Cuber is featured. Cuber deftly handles the various time and feel changes while weaving an aesthetically satisfying solo. Perhaps the showpiece of the recording is the nearly 17 minutes long arrangement of “Black Saint and Sinner Lady.” The piece is a pastiche of different tempi, exploitations of various tone colors, dramatic dissonances, confluences of counterpoint, and great solo efforts by a number of band members, in particular the segments featuring pianist David Kikoski.

Craig W. Hurst (All About Jazz)