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Epitaph for a Legend

The JazzFest pays tribute to a music marvel.

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In 1989, 10 years after his death, jazz giant Charles Mingus’ Epitaph was completed by friends, family, and historians. Tonight, the Charles Mingus Epitaph Orchestra performs the two-hour masterpiece as part of the Tri-C JazzFest. “It is the premiere jazz orchestral work ever written,” says Beth Rutkowski, the JazzFest’s managing director. “It is very complex.”

The monumental work -- one of the longest jazz pieces ever composed -- consists of a 19-movement suite designed for 31 musicians. The 500-page score was discovered by Mingus’ wife after his death in 1979. She worked on the piece throughout the ’80s. Epitaph debuted in 1989, but because of its demanding nature, it’s rarely performed. Tonight’s concert marks its first appearance in more than a decade. “This is a great opportunity to be part of history,” says Rutkowski. Yet Epitaph is more than a tribute, she explains; it’s a chronicle of American music. “Mingus was really ahead of his time,” she says. “His music always keeps people interested. It keeps gaining him fans, even after his death.”
Fri., April 27, 8 p.m.

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