Photos | At Blues Alley, Mingus Dynasty gives new life to legendary bassist’s compositions

Alex Sipiagin and Dezron Douglas during sound check with the Mingus Dynasty Quintet at Blues Alley. Carlyle V. Smith/CapitalBop

by Carlyle V. Smith
CapitalBop staff

On Thursday, Nov. 17, I had the pleasure of photographing the Mingus Dynasty Quintet at Blues Alley. Photography isn’t allowed during performances at the Georgetown venue, so I captured some candid, behind-the-scenes moments during sound check as the band prepared for its two sets later that evening. You’ll find a few of those shots below.

I stuck around for the 8 p.m. show and settled in to hear this combo take on the repertoire of Charles Mingus, one of the most influential bassists and composers of the modern jazz era. The group started with the up-tempo “Pithecanthropus Erectus,” highlighting saxophonist and de facto leader Alex Foster, who rode a strong island groove driven by the keys of David Kikoski. The tight ensemble also included Donald Edwards on drums, Dezron Douglas on bass and Alex Sipiagin on trumpet. The group ran through tunes such as “Just for Laughs,” “Orange is the Color her Dress” and “Tonight at Noon” with aplomb.

The older-skewing crowd was very appreciative of the quintet’s homages, and the excellent interplay between each band member drew enthusiastic responses throughout the 60-minute set.

As Foster explained from the stage, there are three prominenet Mingus tribute groups, and this quintet focuses on devising fresh, small-scale, in-the-pocket arrangements of recognizable Mingus compositions. It’s a difficult task for sure, but on this night at Blues Alley, the Mingus Dynasty Quintet proved its mettle. 

Find the rest of Carlyle’s Mingus Dynasty shots, as well as his other work, at soulfotography.com.

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