On Wednesday night, one of America’s greatest jazz ensembles took campus by storm, resurrecting before a packed audience in Dinkelspiel Auditorium the legendary work of Charles Mingus. The performance by Mingus Big Band was a triumph for Stanford Lively Arts, with one caveat: hardly any students showed up.
Although the concert was sold out, I saw fewer than twenty students in the whole auditorium. This was not chiefly due to lack of interest. I mentioned the concert to several musicians and jazz aficionados in the days that followed, and they told me with considerable consternation that they had never even heard about it. It also explains why the ushers in the auditorium were giving me and my roommate funny looks as we made our way to our seats. One of them actually asked me if we were attending the concert while we waited outside for the doors to open, even though I was holding onto a ticket. There was a distinctive vibe in the air that we were not supposed to be there. Scheduled on Greek bid night without any Facebook event, promotional posters, or e-flyer campaign, this event in the middle of campus was a closed affair, available to students only if they could find out about it.
The absence of students was a real shame because this concert was special. Despite its edginess, the music appealed to a wide spectrum of music-lovers. Each musician was a virtuoso and a team-player simultaneously. The solos dazzled. The collective pulse of sound, rapid tempo changes, nimble finger-work, and sultry melodies transported me to another realm of consciousness. No beat was left un-stretched, no chord abandoned to complacency. One of the trombonists even stood up to sing, floating above the beat with a lusty baritone.
Such exceptional jazz in a big-band setting does not often find its way to the Farm. A pity that more students were not able to witness it.