Michael Ross Quintet — Mingus Centennial (+1)

Tampa Jazz Club had lined up a superb band to celebrate the Charles Mingus Centennial last September. However, a huge force of nature in the form of Hurricane Ian had another idea, blowing the centennial into 2023.

On April 30, FIVE huge forces of nature responded with a show for Mingus’ one hundred first birthday at the HCC Mainstage Theatre at HCC Ybor City, the last Tampa Jazz Club show of this season. (And this concert hall is the bestsmall venue in the area in terms of sound, viewing, and seating!)

Bassist Michael Ross had rounded up the usual suspects for this show, with David Pate, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Danny Jordan, tenor saxophone, flute; John Jenkins, drums; and Pablo Arencibia, piano. The quintet played two outstanding sets, showing the prowess of Mingus as composer and the strengths of each member of the band.

After a warm introduction by Tampa Jazz Club’s Bob Seymour, “Nostalgia in Times Square” filled the hall with Mingus. Pate and Jordan both soloed on tenor as Arencibia demonstrated his enormous comping skills. Then he and Ross each stepped out. Ross told the tale of the title of “Fables of Faubus” before he on bass and Pate on bass clarinet provided a delightful intro before the unmistakable cadence of the song. Once again, Jordan and Pate each soloed before some lovely interplay.

John Jenkins – Michael Ross Quintet – Mingus 101 – 04.30.23. 📸: Steve Splane

Next up was Jordan’s arrangement of “East Coasting.” Pate, Arencibia, and Ross soloed, but Jenkins was the star here with his magnificent use of his simple drum kit. BRAVO! Jordan opened “Devil Woman” with a stunning, slow tour de force on tenor. Pate jumped in on soprano, and then tenor and soprano soared together.

Danny Jordan – Michael Ross Quintet – Mingus 101 – 04.30.23. 📸: Steve Splane

They finished set one with “Peggy’s Blue Skylight.” Arencibia’s beautiful solo introduction led to Jordan on flute and Pate on tenor. Everybody took a turn, and again Jenkins sparkled, this time playing rims.

Michael Ross – Michael Ross Quintet – Mingus 101 – 04.30.23. 📸: Steve Splane

Ross cracked us us when the band returned for set two. He announced they would begin with several of his compositions. Jenkins immediately whipped his head around in mock surprise, to which Ross answered, “I just don’t care!” He writes outstanding music, and “Saffron” was first. Jordan played tenor, Pate soprano. Arencibia had a nice feature. At the end of the tune, Jordan offered accent “howls” over the soprano. Very cool!

Pablo Arencibia – Michael Ross Quintet – Mingus 101 – 04.30.23. 📸: Steve Splane

Ross explained that “Blues Waterfall” has lyrics but no vocalist, although he noted Pate said he might (laughter all around). There was a dynamic bass intro before flute and tenor jumped in, followed by a beautiful, deep, rich segment with flute and bass. Bass and piano were up next before Pate blew the roof off with a fabulous solo, Jordan on flute.

Danny Jordan & David Pate – Michael Ross Quintet – Mingus 101 – 04.30.23. 📸: Steve Splane

He announced that the next composition was “Giraffe.” Somebody on stage made another mock comment, and we heard Ross say, offhand, “I like giraffes.” Flute and tenor began the melody before Arencibia WOWED us with some wonderful piano, Jordan encouraging on flute. Everybody took a turn after that, but once again it was Jenkins who blew us away with his deft touch at kit.

Ross allowed as how they ought to play a Mingus tune to close the performance, noting that the title has alternate spelling of “Better Get It in Your Soul” as “Better Get Hit in Your Soul.” Either way, they blew this one through the roof, dual tenors soaring. 

Danny Jordan & Michael Ross – Michael Ross Quintet – Mingus 101 – 04.30.23. 📸: Steve Splane

This band truly does have five huge forces of nature, and, as MC Seymour pointed out, they would be at home in New York or any other jazz mecca. It was great to hear Arencibia, who has been in the area five years and is really beginning to make his mark. Those other four characters are household names for area jazz fans. 

Michael Ross Quintet – Mingus 101 – 04.30.23. 📸: Steve Splane

Bravo to Tampa Jazz Club for another great show, and many thanks to Steve Splane for his excellent photographs! 

[MINGUS 101 ONE: Nostalgia in Times Square, Fables of Faubus, East Coasting, Devil Woman, Peggy’s Blue Skylight; TWO: Saffron, Blues Waterfall, Giraffe, Better Get It in Your Soul]



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