Happy Mingus Day

Today is Charles Mingus’s birthday. He would have been 92, if ALS hadn’t claimed his life at age 56 in 1979. Mingus is one of the true giants, influential both as a musician (a true bass virtuoso) and as a composer. His music helped define and innovate hard bop, bringing in elements of gospel and free jazz. Alongside Duke Ellington, Mingus is a jazz composer who deserves to be mentioned with the great composers of any genre, at any time. But enough words; here are some tunes:

The Gospel-influenced “Better Git It in Your Soul” (1959):

“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” (1959), written in honor of saxophone legend Lester Young, who had just died:

“Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” from the album Blues and Roots (1960). Atlantic Records execs wanted Mingus to record an album of blues, which they thought might have a little broader appeal, to a wider audience, than his usual stuff. Mingus gave them an album that was all blues, but entirely Mingus. One of my favorite albums ever:

“Pithecanthropus Erectus” (1956):


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