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2 Shows, 30 Tracks

Charles Mingus

Bassist, composer, pianist, bandleader, and poet, Charles Mingus was a creative whirlwind. He began his career as a Bop and Cool Jazz player in New York City, before forming the Jazz Composer's Workshop in 1952. In 1955, Mingus started his own group, known as the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop. A year later, Mingus enlisted drummer Dannie Richmond, who was to become his lifelong partner in rhythm. And thus began Mingus's creative explosion. He wrote a series of tunes that featured Gospel-inflected shouts, raucous blues, and Ellington-esque arrangements, showcased on the albums Blues and Roots, Mingus Ah Um, and Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus. He enlisted a big band and recorded a masterpiece of modern music, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. He also toured Europe with a quintet, featuring the great Eric Dolphy. In 1977, after a short retirement and before his death, he recorded two more small combo albums, both entitled Changes. A virtuoso bassist and composer, Mingus irrevocably changed the face of jazz.

Charles Mingus Concert Films

  • Epitaph: Live from Lincoln Center

    Charles Mingus

    Year: 1989

    Runtime: 2 hr 20 min

    On June 3rd, 1989, the Alice Tully Hall at New York's Lincoln Center was the venue for the world premiere performance of Charles Mingus' masterpiece "Epitaph". Conductor Gunther Schuller directed 30 musicians in what the New York Times described as "One of the most memorable jazz events of the decade". The piece had been discovered after Mingus' death in 1979 and painstakingly restored and copied. It is the largest and longest piece for jazz orchestra ever written and is now available here on film for the first time.
  • Triumph of the Underdog

    Charles Mingus

    Year: 1999

    Runtime: 1 hr 18 min

    Don McGlynn's uncompromising and soulful documentary look at the tumultuous life of musician and rebel Charles Mingus is simply fascinating. Mingus said of himself "I am half black man, half yellow man, but I claim to be a Negro. I am Charles Mingus, the famed jazz musician--but not famed enough to make a living in America." His statement summed up the conflict that plagued this musical genius his entire life: volatility, pain, prescience, and raw rage roiled inside a complex man, composer, bass player, and trombonist who transcended labels and refused to be pigeonholed into a single musical style--and who did not achieve real fame until late in his career. The documentary is full of well-preserved footage and contains interviews with many Mingus followers like Wynton Marsalis as well as performances by icons Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Gerry Mulligan. The film traverses past the musical legend with insight and information into Mingus's personal life, his civil rights activism, and his final triumph in the music world--just as his body began to deteriorate from Lou Gehrig's disease--to his eventual death in 1979. Mingus left a legacy composed of genius, vulnerability, brilliance, anarchy, and, as one friend noted, "the entire range of human emotion that is reflected in his music.

Charles Mingus Top Tracks