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Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus (April 22, 1922 - January 5, 1979) was a jazz bassist, composer, bandleader[?], and sometimes a pianist. He was a contemporary of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. In contrast to their cooler, more intellectual approach, he retained the hot and soulful feel of more traditional jazz and black gospel music while continuing experimentation in rhythm and harmony.

He often worked with a large group (around 8-10 members), many of whom had strong rhythm and blues experience in addition to jazz. He was stylistically indebted to Duke Ellington, for whom he had played briefly at the start of his career.

Mingus was prone to depression (possibly manic-depression). He tended to have brief periods of extreme creative activity, intermixed with fairly long periods of greatly decreased output.

Major works include:

  • Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956, Atlantic)
  • Blues and Roots (1959, Atlantic)
  • Mingus Ah Um (1959, Columbia)
  • Mingus Dynasty (1959, Columbia)
  • Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (1960, Candid)
  • Oh Yeah (1962, Atlantic)
  • The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963, Impulse)
  • Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1963, Impulse)
  • Changes One (1974, Atlantic)
  • Changes Two (1974, Atlantic)

Of these, Mingus Ah Um and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady are arguably his best works. Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, although derivative of his earlier works, is a whole lot of fun.

His autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, presents a vibrantly boastful and possibly apocryphal account of his early career as a pimp.

The music of Charles Mingus is currently being performed and reinterpreted by the Mingus Big Band, which plays every Thursday in New York City, and often tours the rest of the United States and Europe.



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