Charles Mingus

The greatest bassist leader jazz has ever known, Charles Mingus articulated the emotional currents of his time in a unique way. As a bass prodigy, he began performing as a sideman in the early 1940s, for the likes of Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington. By 1956, with the release of Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic), Mingus had clearly found himself as a composer and leader, creating pulsating, ever-shifting compendiums of jazz's past and present, feeling his way into the free jazz of the future. For the next decade, he would produce an extraordinary body of work for several labels, with stellar musicians like Jimmy Knepper, Roland Kirk, Booker Ervin, and John Handy. In the 1970s, he continued to tour, release albums and composed (including the Cumbia and Jazz Fusion album. Sadly he was diagnosed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), and by the following year, he was unable to play the bass. Though confined to a wheelchair, he nevertheless carried on, leading recording sessions, and receiving honours at a White House concert on June 18, 1978. His last project was a collaboration, Mingus with folk-rock singer Joni Mitchell, who wrote lyrics to Mingus' music and included samples of Mingus' voice on the record.