Mingus; “The Double Bass Saint and The Lady Sinner”
In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.” CM
Charles Mingus (22 April 1922 – 5 January 1979) was an American jazz bassist, composer, bandleader, and occasional pianist also known for his activism against racial injustice.
“Music is, or was, a language of the emotions. If someone has been escaping reality, I don’t expect him to dig my music, and I would begin to worry about my writing if such a person began to really like it. My music is alive and it’s about the living and the dead, about good and evil. It’s angry, yet it’s real because it knows it’s angry.”CM
“I, myself, came to enjoy the players who didn’t only just swing but who invented new rhythmic patterns, along with new melodic concepts. And those people are: Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Parker, who is the greatest genius of all to me because he changed the whole era around. But there is no need to compare composers. If you like Beethoven, Bach or Brahms, that’s okay. They were all pencil composers. I always wanted to be a spontaneous composer.” CM
“The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever”
This concert was held at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada on May 15, 1953, and was recorded by bassist Charles Mingus, who overdubbed some additional bass parts and issued it on his own Debut label as the Quintet’s Jazz at Massey Hall. Charlie Parker (listed on the original album sleeve as “Charlie Chan”) performed on a plastic alto, pianist Bud Powell was stone drunk from the opening bell, and Dizzy Gillespie kept popping offstage to check on the status of the first Rocky Marciano-Jersey Joe Walcott heavyweight championship bout.
“Mingus was always a disaster to have around. I loved him, but he was worse than a child. He didn’t know how to clean up behind himself. He could cook, but there would be eggs on the floor and the ceiling. Couldn’t find his shoes when he had to go to work, didn’t have a white shirt, couldn’t write a check. All he could really do was play the bass and write.” – Buddy Collette, as quoted in Central Avenue Sounds (1998)
“Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t associate me with any of this. This is not jazz. These are sick people”. CM (After angry altercations at a reunion gig (4 March 1955), as quoted in Myself When I Am Real : The Life and Music of Charles Mingus (2001) by Gene Santoro; Bud Powell was reportedly drunk, smashed the keyboard and walked off stage, and Charlie Parker stood at the microphone calling: “Bud Powell, Bud Powell.”)
Irascible, demanding, bullying, and probably a genius, Charles Mingus cut himself a uniquely iconoclastic path through jazz in the middle of the 20th century, creating a legacy that became universally lauded only after he was no longer around to bug people. As a bassist, he knew few peers, blessed with a powerful tone and pulsating sense of rhythm, capable of elevating the instrument into the front line of a band. But had he been just a string player, few would know his name today. Rather, he was the greatest bass-playing leader/composer jazz has ever known, one who always kept his ears and fingers on the pulse, spirit, spontaneity, and ferocious expressive power of jazz. R.Ginell
“What do you think happens to a composer who is sincere and loves to write and has to wait thirty years to have someone play a piece of his music?” CM
“Good jazz is when the leader jumps on the piano, waves his arms, and yells. Fine jazz is when a tenorman lifts his foot in the air. Great jazz is when he heaves a piercing note for 32 bars and collapses on his hands and knees. A pure genius of jazz is manifested when he and the rest of the orchestra run around the room while the rhythm section grimaces and dances around their instruments.” CM
In his A New History of the Double Bass, Paul Brun asserts, with many references, that the double bass has origins as the true bass of the violin family. He states that, while the exterior of the double bass may resemble the viola da gamba, the internal construction of the double bass is nearly identical to instruments in the violin family, and very different from the internal structure of violas.
Double bass professor Larry Hurst argues that the “modern double bass is not a true member of either the violin or viol families.” He says that “most likely its first general shape was that of a violone, the largest member of the viol family. Some of the earliest basses extant are violones, (including C-shaped sound holes) that have been fitted with modern trappings.” Some existing instruments, such as those by Gasparo da Salò, were converted from 16th-century six-string contrabass violoni.