Homes for Mingus 

click to enlarge art40_music_brian_jones_100.jpg

Upcoming concerts for two very good causes prove that the best musical benefits are those with heart. Not that there's anything deeply wrong with save-the-world spectaculars like Live 8 (or, as Muse front man Matt Bellamy called it, "private jets for climate change"), but self-congratulatory crusades are always less appealing than labors of love.

Virginia Commonwealth University junior Amanda West, working as an intern with Habitat for Humanity, saw her modest proposal for getting money to build houses blossom into "a monster of a fundraiser. I'm glad I have a lot of good people helping me out," she says. "I would be a lot closer to pulling my hair out if I didn't." With some quality brass behind her, her fundraiser, "A New Orleans Style Jazz Night," has become an evening of music, Oct. 6., minus the private jets. Head of VCU Jazz Studies Antonio Garcia helped focus the project on his native New Orleans; half the proceeds stay in Richmond, the other half goes toward the Musicians' Village, a 70-unit housing project for performers and other displaced Crescent City residents. "If they don't come back," West says, "New Orleans won't come back."

Another key participant in "New Orleans Night" is globe-hopping trumpeter Rex Richardson, who is assembling an all-star band with Charlottesville trumpeter John D'earth and VCU jazz success story Alvester Garnett (Regina Carter's drummer). "It's not going to be just a jam," Richardson says, "but a fully rehearsed gig. We're hoping to do some original music by Garnett — he's writing a New Orleans piece for the occasion."

Area favorites The No BS Brass Band and Bungalo6 will also perform.

Brian Jones' Mingus Awareness Project concert takes place Sunday, Oct. 21, the day after the Walk to D'Feet ALS. Both events are dedicated to raising awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the currently incurable motor neuron malady also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Charles Mingus, the great jazz bassist, composer and bandleader, died of ALS in 1979.

The Mingus Awareness Project was started by three brothers Jones grew up with in Chicago. The first concert was organized last spring by Jon, Dan and Eric Godston, in honor of their mother, who died of ALS in 2006; Jones then brought the idea to Richmond. It's an all-Mingus concert, starting with arrangements for Jones' Guitar Quartet, expanding to a quintet (John D'earth, J.C. Kuhl, Bob Hallahan, Randall Pharr) and then gradually adding horns until it morphs into a big band led by local legend Doug Richards. "Doug doesn't do that many gigs," Jones says, "but as soon as I mentioned it, he was on board."

It promises to be a rare opportunity to hear some of the area's best players navigate the seriously complex but gut-level natural compositions of Mingus. And, like VCU's "New Orleans Night," it's a chance to mix civic duty with pleasure. S

"A New Orleans Style Jazz Night" is Saturday, Oct. 6 at 6:30-10 p.m. at the Singleton Center. Tickets are $10-$35. 828-6776.

The Mingus Awareness Project is Sunday, Oct. 21, 4-7 p.m. at The Camel. Tickets are $12. 353-4901.

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