Charles Mingus was a 20th century jazz musician whose reputation as a great bassist is matched by his influence as a great composer of what has been called "orchestral jazz." He was musically trained in public schools and Christian churches in Los Angeles, where he went from trombone to cello to double-bass. Between 1941 and 1953 he played professionally with various bandleaders, including Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, helping to shape the West Coast sound of "cool jazz." In New York City he and Max Roach launched Debut Records (1953), and Mingus led the first of several Jazz Workshops (ensembles). During the 1950s he began realizing his ambitions as a composer and used his background in gospel and swing -- and his inclination for the jazz avant-garde -- to craft elaborately structured pieces for larger bands that still left room for improvisation. By the 1970s he was considered a living legend, though one of the "not amply rewarded" category. Extremely gifted, wildly eccentric and ultimately crippled by ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Mingus ranks up there with Duke Ellington as one of jazz"s greatest composers. His best-known records include Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), Blues and Roots (1958), Money Jungle (1961), Town Hall Concert (1962, with Eric Dolphy), The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1964), Changes One (1973) and Changes Two (1974).
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