Charles Mingus sits alongside Monk and Miles as a giant among jazz performers and composers. He was also a man of giant appetites and perilous passions that sometimes threatened to consume his career. For 40 years Mingus showcased his virtuosic bass-playing and innovative bandleading while cultivating a reputation as Jazz’s “angry man.” He was angry about racism, he was angry about music, and he lashed out in fury at friend and foe alike.
Mingus once knocked out the front tooth of his trombonist and arranger Jimmy Knepper, and he regularly abused his audiences, promoters, and multiple wives with chaotic rage. As a composer Mingus focused his restless musical mind on fighting the bebop era’s obsessive individualism with his own technique of “controlled improvisation” – an approach that yielded some of jazz’s greatest compositions. We’re remembering Mingus, this hour on The Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Gene Santoro, author of “Myself When I am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus”