"Good jazz is when the leader jumps on the piano, waves his arms, and yells. Fine jazz is when a tenorman lifts his foot in the air. Great jazz is when he heaves a piercing note for 32 bars and collapses on his hands and knees. A pure genius of jazz is manifested when he and the rest of the orchestra runaround the room while the rhythm section grimaces and dances around their instruments." (Charles Mingus)
Arguably one of the greatest composer of the last century, definitely the greatest contrabassist, an impressive pianist, a controversial writer, a true jazz icon, the greatest hard-bop jazz leader, neither superlatives nor somewhat silly "rankings" can do justice to Charles Mingus genius and music.
From the first "small" features in 1945, to the late Me, Myself an Eye from 1978, just moments before his death, Charles Mingus left us a hundred of equally earth shaking records, among which Tijuana Moods, Ah Um, The Clown, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Mingus Moves, Let my Children Hear Music...
Most of his early career can be found on West Coast and on the 10 cd box set The Complete Debut Recordings, not to mention the Bethlehem and Savoy sessions.
Already a major voice by the 50's, he contributed his part in two of the finest jazz records ever, namely Jazz at Massey Hall and Money Jungle.
Closing the 50's with a series of major records for Atlantic (all to be found in the Passions of a Man box set), Mingus walked into the 60's with Candid, and a new line-up including Eric Dolphy (another true jazz genius).
The Candid sessions on their own deserve a book: adventurous, demanding, heartfelt, both breaking new grounds and deeply rooted, all material is equally exceptional.
Reaching new heights - if possible - with three smashing Impulse! releases, the band planned a European tour for 1964.
That tour was havoc, pure blossoming beauty, craziness and genius at work, unfortunately mostly documented on poor quality bootlegs.
Sadly, it was also death, as Eric Dolphy passed in mysterious circumstances in Germany, leaving Mingus devastated, going silent for five years.
1970 saw another Mingus come back, in his 50's, taking charge again almost exactly where it stopped in 64: Paris - and the famous TNP session.
A colossal Mingus, dominating both his instrument and formations, appeased on the surface, still burning of that old flame, for a last decade of genius work, and a handful of studio records - most musicians would make a career out of just one of these, namely Three or Four Shades of Blues, Changes, Cumbia and Jazz Fusion...
Epitaph, a work of a lifetime that he knew he could never record, was performed in the late 80's, and can be found as a two cd box.
"If someone has been escaping reality, I don't expect him to dig my music." --- Charles Mingus
(Cat owners will also be highly interested by the famous Mingus cat toilet training program, the Cat-alog.)
Archived discography page: http://web.archive.org/web/20080421180139/http://outbreakin.hp.infoseek.co.jp/charlesmingus1.htm
Charles Mingus Jr. (April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979) was a highly influential American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader. Mingus's compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music and blues while sometimes drawing on elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and classical music. Yet Mingus avoided categorization, forging his own brand of music that fused tradition with unique and unexplored realms of jazz. He once cited Duke Ellington and church as his main influences.
Mingus focused on collective improvisation, similar to the old New Orleans jazz parades, paying particular attention to how each band member interacted with the group as a whole. In creating his bands, he looked not only at the skills of the available musicians, but also their personalities. Many musicians passed through his bands and later went on to impressive careers. He recruited talented and sometimes little-known artists, whom he utilized to assemble unconventional instrumental configurations. As a performer, Mingus was a pioneer in double bass technique, widely recognized as one of the instrument's most proficient players.
Nearly as well known as his ambitious music was Mingus's often fearsome temperament, which earned him the nickname "The Angry Man of Jazz". His refusal to compromise his musical integrity led to many onstage eruptions, exhortations to musicians, and dismissals. Because of his brilliant writing for midsize ensembles, and his catering to and emphasizing the strengths of the musicians in his groups, Mingus is often considered the heir of Duke Ellington, for whom he expressed great admiration. Indeed, Dizzy Gillespie had once claimed Mingus reminded him "of a young Duke", citing their shared "organizational genius".
Mingus' compositions continue to be played by contemporary musicians ranging from the repertory bands Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, and Mingus Orchestra, to the high school students who play the charts and compete in the Charles Mingus High School Competition.
Gunther Schuller has suggested that Mingus should be ranked among the most important American composers, jazz or otherwise. In 1988, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts made possible the cataloging of Mingus compositions, which were then donated to the Music Division of the New York Public Library for public use. In 1993, The Library of Congress acquired Mingus's collected papers—including scores, sound recordings, correspondence and photos—in what they described as "the most important acquisition of a manuscript collection relating to jazz in the Library's history".