David Bowie sees Charles Mingus live

David Bowie attended a show by Charles Mingus at the Village Gate nightclub in New York City on 4 February 1973.

At dinner that evening, David again suggested to Geoff and me that we might like to go out on the town with him. This time it was to be a visit to the Village Gate, the world famous old jazz venue where composer and legendary jazz bassist Charlie Mingus would be playing that evening. I was again surprised by the friendly invitation, and happy to be included in David’s small party. My old friend was indeed making me very welcome, and the bleakness of my lonely life in Scarborough just a couple of weeks before was already barely a memory. I was in another world, this really was another planet.

The Charlie Mingus group was brilliant of course, and the man himself surprised us by playing a solo on a large, flexible steel saw. This is an old music hall trick; the saw is bent over and played with a bow, thereby producing an unearthly whining sound. As Charlie Mingus was never famous for his high spirits, we had witnessed a rare joke – he must have been having a good night. Or maybe it was something else after all – “You people want entertainment, get this then.” Mingus was said to be a difficult and sometimes arrogant man, but I believed that the musical saw was just a joke, the guy obviously had a sense of humour in any case, and later I was to feel that I had been privileged to hear the great man play (play bass I mean, not really the saw so much) and we had all been lucky to catch him, as Charlie died three years later.

John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Bowie & Hutch
Last updated: 5 May 2023
Rehearsal: RCA Studios, New York
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