Bassist, composer, pianist, bandleader, and poet, Charles Mingus was a creative whirlwind. He began his career as a Bop and Cool Jazz player in New York City, before forming the Jazz Composer's Workshop in 1952. In 1955, Mingus started his own group, known as the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop. A year later, Mingus enlisted drummer Dannie Richmond, who was to become his lifelong partner in rhythm. And thus began Mingus's creative explosion. He wrote a series of tunes that featured Gospel-inflected shouts, raucous blues, and Ellington-esque arrangements, showcased on the albums Blues and Roots, Mingus Ah Um, and Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus. He enlisted a big band and recorded a masterpiece of modern music, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. He also toured Europe with a quintet, featuring the great Eric Dolphy. In 1977, after a short retirement and before his death, he recorded two more small combo albums, both entitled Changes. A virtuoso bassist and composer, Mingus irrevocably changed the face of jazz.
Charles Mingus Concert Films
Epitaph: Live from Lincoln Center
Runtime: 2 hr 20 minOn June 3rd, 1989, the Alice Tully Hall at New York's Lincoln Center was the venue for the world premiere performance of Charles Mingus' masterpiece "Epitaph". Conductor Gunther Schuller directed 30 musicians in what the New York Times described as "One of the most memorable jazz events of the decade". The piece had been discovered after Mingus' death in 1979 and painstakingly restored and copied. It is the largest and longest piece for jazz orchestra ever written and is now available here on film for the first time.
Triumph of the Underdog
Runtime: 1 hr 18 minDon McGlynn's uncompromising and soulful documentary look at the tumultuous life of musician and rebel Charles Mingus is simply fascinating. Mingus said of himself "I am half black man, half yellow man, but I claim to be a Negro. I am Charles Mingus, the famed jazz musician--but not famed enough to make a living in America." His statement summed up the conflict that plagued this musical genius his entire life: volatility, pain, prescience, and raw rage roiled inside a complex man, composer, bass player, and trombonist who transcended labels and refused to be pigeonholed into a single musical style--and who did not achieve real fame until late in his career. The documentary is full of well-preserved footage and contains interviews with many Mingus followers like Wynton Marsalis as well as performances by icons Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Gerry Mulligan. The film traverses past the musical legend with insight and information into Mingus's personal life, his civil rights activism, and his final triumph in the music world--just as his body began to deteriorate from Lou Gehrig's disease--to his eventual death in 1979. Mingus left a legacy composed of genius, vulnerability, brilliance, anarchy, and, as one friend noted, "the entire range of human emotion that is reflected in his music.
Charles Mingus Top Tracks
Notes from a Jazz Survivor
Runtime: 49 minAn intensely personal and sometimes painful look into the fascinating world of Art Pepper. One of Jazz' greatest alto saxophonists and most expressive soloists, Pepper was also a thief, drug addict, alcoholic, womanizer, and world renown wildman. In candid interviews he recounts his triumphs, troubles, and luck in meeting Laurie, his last wife. For half the film Pepper leads a trio in a Malibu nightclub, the set includes: "Red Car", "Patricia", and "Miss Who?".
Runtime: 52 minThe Jazz Sessions spotlights Andrew Hill, a great and even groundbreaking composer and pianist. While many of his contemporaries were totally jettisoning the rhythmic and harmonic techniques of bop and hard bop, Hill worked to extend their possibilities; his was a revolution from within. He exhibited a determined command of his materials, however abstract they might sometimes be. His composed melodies were labyrinthine, rhythmically and harmonically complex tunes that exhibit a sophistication born of mastery, not chance or contingency.
Live at Montreux 1996
Runtime: 56 minWayne Shorter is one of the most significant jazz performers of modern times. He performed as part of Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers and then Miles Davis band in the sixties before co-founding Weather Report with Joe Zawinul in the early seventies. This Montreux concert from 1996 features the Wayne Shorter Quintet and followed on from the release of his Grammy Award winning album High Life.
Live in Munich
Runtime: 1 hr 2 minFor more than 50 years, trumpeter/bandleader Miles Davis was a major innovator of cool, modal, avant-garde, and fusion jazz styles. This program captures Davis's band: alto saxophonist/flutist Kenny Garrett, Keyboardists Robert Irving III and Adam Holzmann, lead bassist Joseph "Foley" McCreary, and bassist Benjamin Rietveld, percussionist Marilyn Mazur, and drummer Ricky Wellman, live in Munich, Germany on July 10th, 1988. With these musicians' sympathetic and syncopated support, Davis's trademarked Harmon-muted trumpet tones dance and trance over the combo's supple electric swing. Throughout the concert, Davis glides across the stage with the elegance and power of a dancer and a fighter, huddling with his sidemen to play and share a phrase. Interview snippets with Davis feature the trumpeter frankly discussing his other passion, artwork. All told, Miles in Munich shows that the man called "Prince of Darkness" was full of artistic light near the end of his creative life.
Legends in Concert
Runtime: 43 minJazz Legends - Duke Ellington and His Orchestra (1929-1943) by Duke Ellington, includes a series of short films made in Hollywood featuring Ellington performing his biggest hits: Black And Tan (1929) directed by Dudley Murphy; Check and Double Check (1930) directed by Melville Brown; Symphony in Black (1934) directed by Fred Waller; Paramount Pictoral No.889 (1937); The Hit Parade of 1937; and RKO Jamboree No.7 (1943) directed by Jay Bonafield. .