Charles Mingus Photography

Charles Mingus

Jazz great Charles Mingus was one of the most original and influential composers of the 20th century. After initially studying trombone and cello, he proved to be a virtuoso double bass player, among the first jazzmen to elevate the string bass from simply keeping time into a new role as a melodic solo instrument.

Mingus performed with legends like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie, eventualy recording more than 100 albums—including enduring standards “Better Git It In Your Soul” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” He incorporated a wide range of influences, drawing heavily from traditional black church music and Duke Ellington’s orchestrated big band sound, but also from genres as diverse as New Orleans jazz and Latin folk.

Mingus died of a heart attack in 1979, just months after completing his last project—a collaboration with Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Both New York City and Washington, D.C. honored him posthumously with a “Charles Mingus Day,” and he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

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