Remembering Charles Mingus
38 years ago today, the music world lost one of the coolest cats ever to hold a double bass.
Born on a US Army Base in Nogales, Arizona on April 22, 1922, Charles Mingus, Jr. started studying music at a relatively early age, although he was only permitted to listen to church-related music within his home. (You can thank Mrs. Mingus for that decision.) He fell in love with the cello while he was still a young man, and even though it was an instrument that didn’t lend itself to a significant career – well, not for an African-American gentleman in the 1930s, at least – Mingus latched onto it and wouldn’t let go. In fact, his shift to playing bass only occurred when he was accepted into Buddy Collette’s band in the late 1930s. Once it did, though, he never looked back, and jazz was all the better for it.
When we last memorialized Mingus, we pulled together a piece featuring a few key moments from his career that you may not have been aware of, among them his soundtrack for the 1958 John Cassavetes film Shadows, his appearance in the 1961 film All Night Long, and his contributions to a certain Joni Mitchell album. To read about these things and more, you can click right here, and while you’re reading, give his Atlantic Records recordings a spin. Mingus was a passionate musician, and it comes through in every note he recorded for the label.