PRINT May 1997


Charles Mingus

CHARLES MINGUS probably didn’t believe that old saw about less being more. To him less was less, more was more, and the only reason you might want people to think otherwise was because you were endeavoring to pull the wool over their eyes or sell them something. As an African-American born in the racially charged America of the ’20s (Mingus would have turned seventy-five this year), the late bassist, composer, and band leader had little stomach for ideas that didn’t add up, a fact that came through in song titles like “Fables of Faubus,” “Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul,” “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife (Are Some Jive-Ass Slippers)” or “All the Things You Could Be (if Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother).”

As a result, Mingus spent much of his life in frustration. The bassist’s compositions are nothing if not the products of a voracious sensibility that desired more of everything—more notes,

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