The Annual Mingus Awareness Project Returns 

The somewhat annual, always excellent Mingus Awareness Project (MAP) is at The Camel this Sunday (July 27th.) The ALS benefit, organized by drummer Brian Jones, features some of the area’s best musicians. (This year the lineup includes bassist Cameron Ralston, guitarist Alan Parker’s group, a larger ensemble organized by Bio Ritmo trombonist Toby Whittaker, and a quartet featuring Jones, saxophonist J.C. Kuhl, trumpeter John D’earth and bassist Randall Pharr.)

All of the music is composed by protean bassist, bandleader and composer Charles Mingus, who’s muscular, blues and gospel-informed, stylistically omnivorous work defies easy categorization. His ensembles - notably the ever-shifting lineup of the Jazz Workshop - were dazzlingly adventurous. Mingus was the genius as saint and wrecking ball. A volatile, sometimes violent creative personality - he was reportedly kicked out of the Ellington band for brandishing a fire ax - he wrote songs of haunting beauty (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love.”)

His career was cut short, at the age of 56 in 1979, by ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – an incurable neurodegenerative illness often called “Lou Gehrig’s disease.)

Brothers Jon and Dan Godston held the first MAP concerts in Chicago in 2007, after losing their mother to ALS. Jones started the Richmond tradition in 2008. All money raised from the $7 entry and from sale of t-shirts and event recordings goes to fund organizations dedicated to finding a cure and supporting those affected.

The Richmond concerts are always one of the highlights of the musical year. Mingus’s far-reaching compositions provide a wide scope for artistic exploration, and the lineup of players this year promises a night of great music for a worthy cause.

The Mingues Awareness Project goes down at the Camel on Sunday, July 27. Tickets are $7 and the event starts at 7 p.m. See thecamel.org for more information.

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