Charles Mingus is a prominent name in American Music. Having established himself in bass, piano and composition, he is among the greatest jazz musicians of the twentieth century.He is also known for his anti-racism campaigns.
Charles Mingus was born on April 22, 1922 in an Arizonian Army Base. Charles grew up in Los Angeles, California. He was undergoing treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Mexico. He passed away at the age of 56 on January 5, 1979 in Mexico. Mingus was fondly called Charlie Mingus. Born to a Chinese- English mother and Swedish- African father, he had a mixed ethnic heritage.
Charles Mingus is best known for his inimitable and unconventional musical style. Genres: avant-garde jazz, bebop,post-bop. Instruments played: piano, cello, double bass, and trombone. Through his band, he had provided a platform to many an aspiring singer, who went ahead to make it big in the musical world. He was part of Ellington’s band for a short period but was fired owing to his temper problems. From an early age, he developed a fondness for jazz which prompted him to take lessons in the cello and trombone in school.
Charles Mingus early music was inspired by Third Stream Jazz and was recorded and released in the 1960’s. He became a bass prodigy in his early twenties when he toured with popular bands like Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Lionel Hampton who performed and played his music. In 1959, he composed music for “Shadows”, a John Cassavetes film. His band, called the Jazz Workshop, comprised of new-comers whom he trained and inspired to produce unique jazz music. His avant-garde jazz creations like Pithecanthropus Erectus, The Clown, Tijuana Moods, Mingus Dynasty, Mingus Ah Um, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Cumbia and Jazz Fusion, Let My Children Hear Music are considered extra-ordinary pieces of music.He wrote his first concert piece “Half-Mast Inhibition” at the age of seventeen but it was recorded two decades later. In 1955, he performed at the Brandeis Festival of Creative Arts and his beautiful blend of jazz and classical won him a lot of critical appraisal.His autobiography “Beneath the Underdog” was published in 1971. “Epitaph” which is more than 4000 measures long and is considered his biggest composition, was discovered posthumously during a cataloguing process
Due to his explosive temper, Charles Mingus came to be known as “The Angry Man of Jazz”. He went through peak phases of creativity and troughs of depression leading to a inconsistent performance in his career. As a band-leader he laid special emphasis on the individual music talent of each band-member and their personal characteristics. He used a blend of the two to give a unique face to his band’s artistic expression. Owing to his unique talent and style, he was often compared to the legendary Duke Ellington. He also drew inspiration from Charlie Parker but at the same time, he also condemned the association of drugs with jazz- a tradition laid down by Parker.
1971 Guggenheim Fellowship (Music Composition)
In 1971 Mingus was awarded the Slee Chair of Music and spent a semester teaching composition at the State University of New York at Buffal
1971: Inducted in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.
1982: Inducted in the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
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”.
1995: The United States Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.
1997: Was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
1999: The album Mingus Dynasty (1959) was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
2007: Inducted in the Jazz at Lincoln Center, Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame.
In 1971: Mingus was awarded the Slee Chair of Music and spent a semester teaching composition at the State University of New York at Buffal.