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Mingus, Charles(mĭng`gəs), 1922–79, American jazz musician, b. Nogales, Ariz. Mingus was a bassist, pianist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist. He was one of the most important jazz composers of the 20th cent. and an influence on a broad spectrum of musicians. A charismatic, demanding, and sometimes violent risk-taker, Mingus created works with unconventional structures and innovative harmonies. In the 1950s and 60s he led groups noted for their collective improvisations, loose rhythms, and high energy. At various times in his career he played with Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo, Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington, to whom he dedicated his Open Letter to Duke. He organized his first group, a sextet, in 1945, and later (1955) formed the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop, a group that brought him worldwide acclaim. His compositions include the ambitious Epitaph, first performed in 1989; Fables of Faubus; Better Git It in Your Soul; and Sue's Changes.
See his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog (1971); biographies by B. Priestly (1982) and G. Santoro (2000).
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Mingus, Charles(1922–79) jazz musician; born in Nogales, Ariz. He was a virtuoso bassist and innovative composer who worked as a sideman with Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, and Red Norvo between 1941 and 1953. He formed his first band in 1954 and led large and small ensembles, which he called Jazz Workshops, thereafter. He was a passionate campaigner for civil rights. His autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, was published in 1971.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.