The soul of the late great jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus hovered in Yale Law School’s auditorium Sunday. So did that of the late Stan Wheeler, watching over from an enlarged photo projected on a screen, as two generations of musicians kept their spirits alive.
The occasion was the 11th annual Stan Wheeler Memorial Jazz Concert. The concert has taken place every year since Wheeler, a Yale law professor who sidelined as a trumpeter and nurturer of musical dreams, died in 2007.
The concert not only kept Wheeler’s memory and commitment to the music alive. It also served as a convincing brief for the continued vitality and future prospects for preserving 20th century jazz.
For not only did Wheeler’s former bandmates — the Reunion Jazz Ensemble (Paul Sullivan, on piano, Paul Lieberman on Tenor Sax, Steve Perrett on trumpet, Bob Kolb on alto sax, Gary Bennett on baritone sax, Craig Levine on drums and Tony Lombardozzi on guitar) — show up to deliver a tight and spirited rendition of classic tunes, under the direction of local bassist and bandleader Jeff Fuller ....
... but as usual the latest incarnation of the Yale Jazz ensemble tore it up under the direction of Yale’s Thomas C. Duffy, showing that the music remains vital in the hands of a new generation. Of particular note were renditions of two Mingus numbers, Free Cell Block F ‘Tis Nazi USA and Haitian Fight Song. You can watch/listen to the renditions in the video at left, along with a strong vocal performance by undergraduate Chloe Swindler on Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek.