Mingus Underground Octet rock the Ropetackle Centre


"Come on, you motherf*****rs!" roars an imposing six-foot clown in white make-up and gold epaulettes while a suitably testosterone-fuelled brass section punctuate his spoken word with punchy, sharp retorts. Welcome to the jazz circus... and emotionally you are in for a true roller-coaster ride.

A cornucopia of live performance assaults the senses in tonight's exploration of the work and art of Charles Mingus, whose album Ah Um is a record collection staple on a par with Kind of Blue.

The Octet, brainchild of bandleader Andy Pickett, formed in 2014, clearly enjoy bringing out the sheer fun, modernity, energy and accessibility of the music. Double bassist Terry Pack , makes the bass in 'Haitian Fight Song' alternately sing and groan. On Fables of Faubus, this takes on a more isolated, alienated tone – perhaps like the anti-establishment Mingus himself.

Trombonist Mark Bassey proves himself a dry-witted frontman, making his bandmates mime Pithecanthropus Erectus to much audience laughter. His pacy, direct and communicative approach, together with Rob Leake's quixotic baritone sax and Sam Miles' assertive tenor sax solos, accent and illustrate each musical and lyrical story, while Milo Fell's drumming drives the dramatic tension.

The well-known 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' , is a lovely, mellow reflection, arranged by pianist David Beebee, as is the Pickett-arranged 'Reincarnation.' Trumpeter Martijn van Galen, spices up the evening with lounge-lizard passion, heat, brightness and a certain seediness.

As the improvisational cues are passed to each band member, these musicians somehow manage to stay true to the original Mingus recordings while finding their own voices within the music's framework: no mean feat. They have an insatiable desire to create music. Catch them at the South Coast Jazz in January 2017. If you don't like jazz, you will by the end of the show.

– Jasmine Sharif