The Story 

Six-string electric bass virtuoso Gerald Veasley re-imagines the music of Charles Mingus with his Electric Mingus Project in his Exit Zero Jazz Festival debut. Fronting an acoustic-electric band that includes Chris Farr on saxophones and Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI), John Swana on trumpet and Electric Valve Instrument (EVI), Tony Miceli on vibraphone and Harry “Butch” Reed on drums, the Philadelphia native pays tribute to the legendary bassist-composer-bandleader and creator of such classics as The Clown, Mingus Ah Um, Blues & Roots, The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady and his epic Epitaph. “You can hear the spirit in the music when you hear those great records,” said Veasley. “All of his records had this vibrancy that felt really in the moment.” 

“Mingus was not afraid of melding gospel and blues and elegant melodies and chord changes and bebop or changing tempos within a song,” added Veasley. “And that really attracted me. I always say that listening to Mingus is like reading a good mystery novel — you never know what’s going to happen next.” 

Born and raised in Philadelphia, where he played in R&B groups as a teenager, Veasley earned his reputation in the ‘80s and ‘90s as valued sideman with Joe Zawinul’s Syndicate and with sax icon Grover Washington Jr. His list of performing and recording credits includes McCoy Tyner, Pat Martino, Special EFX, Kirk Whalum, Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir, Teddy Pendergrass and the Four Tops. He debuted as a leader with 1992’s Look Ahead on Heads Up and subsequently released seven more albums for the label, culminating with 2008’s Your Move. He followed with 2011’s Electric Mingus Project on Fanwave Music Group. His most recent is 2018’s independently-released Live at South, recorded at the popular Philadelphia jazz club. The bassist’s rep as a smooth-jazz exponent and advocate for the genre was established through his nine albums over three decades and through is internet radio show on Slacker Radio. He has taught at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts since 1992 and in 2002 founded his popular Bass Bootcamp, which to date has served over 700 bass players from all over the world. 

The Sound 

In his ambitious acoustic-electric fusion of Mingus music, Veasley and his versatile crew reimagine “Fables of Faubus" and “Boogie Stop Shuffle” as edgy, rock-tinged anthems while also delivering a turbulent “Haitian Fight Song,” a raucously joyous “Better Get Hit In Your Soul” and a thoughtful take on the gorgeous ballad “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love.” There are provocative original tunes here too, like Veasley’s “Blues for Mingus,” with its loping-to-crawling rhythms and rangy start-stop melody, and his funk-edged “Eighteen Sixty-Three.” Expect them to serve up smooth grooves, fresh chord progressions, impeccable executed arrangements, spoken word interludes and uninhibited improvisations in their inspired tribute to the legendary Mingus. 

Where & When: Three Chord Bourbon Stage in Carney’s Other Room on the Cape May Brew Co Hops Pass Club Series, Friday + Saturday

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Michael Kline