Bassist, composer, and bandleader
Courtesy of the Jerry Stoll Collection/Casey Stoll.
Born April 22, 1922, in Nogales, AZ
Died January 5, 1979, in Cuernavaca, Mexico
“Music is a language of the emotions,” the bassist and composer Charles Mingus said. No one in jazz expressed a wider range of emotions with more musical power than he did, and no one but Duke Ellington drew upon more musical sources of inspiration.
A master bassist whose big sound and brilliant technique continue to astonish musicians, Mingus was raised in Watts, California where he absorbed the sounds of the Holiness Church and studied classical music on the cello as well as the bass. During his early career he played alongside Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gilllespie.
His later music –– by turns raucous and romantic, tender and turbulent –– incorporated all that he had learned first-hand, and a world of modern European music as well. But it was always unmistakably his own. “I play or write me ...,” he liked to say, and he called his output “Mingus music.”
His musical methods were his own, too. At the helm of his Jazz Composers’ Workshops, he often dictated his ideas, rather than write them down, and then encouraged the talented young musicians he was always looking for to improvise collectively, blurring the traditional line between soloists and sections and achieving a raw human intensity rarely encountered in any music.
Fiery and sensitive, Mingus took orders from no one. His art reflected that independence and his anger and sorrow at the world’s injustices as well. “My music is alive,” he said, “and it’s about the living and the dead, about good and evil.”
Learn More: www.mingusmingusmingus.com
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