Gerald Veasley
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A NOTE OF HOPE is part music appreciation and part social social-purpose documentary. It can exist comfortably at this intersection because it explores the legacy of the American Negro spiritual, a song form that has always lived there. These songs are the soundtrack of faith and hope in the midst of suffering, and that is still relevant today. A NOTE OF HOPE follows the musical journey of five American jazz musicians who are musical ambassadors for the cause of children left parentless by HIV/AIDS in Africa. These musicians recast the spirituals into the jazz genre, and then — following the example of those who came before them — give of their time and talents to draw attention to those who still suffer today.

Charles Mingus. Even in his passing, this legendary bassist and composer has inspired more controversy than perhaps any other in jazz. While pursuing increasing musical complexity like his contemporaries, Mingus simultaneously ran against the grain, reveling in the raw emotion found in jazz’s “simple” ancestors, the blues and gospel. These styles have been called the victory of the subjective over the objective. In other words, how the music makes people feel is far more important than the degree of technical correctness in the musicians’ playing. Mingus’s defiant adherence to this ideal is ever present in his compositions and has made him a fascination to the generations of jazz musicians that followed.

One such musician is renowned bassist Gerald Veasley. A formidable player and composer himself, Veasley leads the five piece Electric Mingus Project. The group’s self-titled debut album revisits ten Mingus compositions using modern electronic instruments. When asked to explain the goals of what initially appears to be a tribute project, the former bassist for Grover Washington Jr. and Joe Zawinul responds surprisingly. “Any recording should reflect not just how you play, but also how you are as a person. We want this record to be a snapshot of these five musicians and who they are.”

By rejecting the idea of a tribute album in this way, the Electric Mingus Project in fact pays the ultimate tribute to the late composer. As Mingus turned back to the blues, Veasley turns back to Mingus for the same purpose: to find a vehicle for true, unabashed personal expression. So though Mingus wrote or inspired all of the music on this album, the feeling, power, and irrepressible soul that bursts from every track belongs to no one but the musicians of the Electric Mingus Project. Charles Mingus wouldn’t want it any other way.


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