The Book, in summary

Mingus Speaks is for jazz lovers, of course, and has much inside information that most haven’t heard before. A sizeable audience of younger people is coming to know his music, and they are discovering the uniqueness of Mingus. The man was also a celebrity who always drew the hip and the curious. You know who you are.

Interest in him has been growing in the years since his death (1979), largely owing to the efforts of his wife Sue. She has been instrumental in creating the three Mingus tribute bands that now play his compositions internationally.

So Mingus has become a small but significant musical industry, and his compositions are studied and taught in music schools, high schools, and in the jazz world generally. I’ll be setting up links to some of the important Mingus sites.

This will be the first book to present him at length in his own words, talking openly in his inimitable shotgun style about the subjects that moved him. You’ll find I’ve added headnotes and an occasional essay as commentary to each chapter.

I also did interviews in 1972 and 1974 with Mingus friends and associates, and these I’ve appended to various chapters to offer different points of view and opinions.

  • Sy Johnson—Mingus’s arranger, composer and orchestrator for many years (including the present Mingus bands). Sy comments and offers anecdotes on the man’s personality, how he composed, and on the history of Let My Children Hear Music, one of Mingus’s greatest albums.
  • Teo Macero (deceased)—musician, Columbia Records producer of Mingus’s recordings, Miles Davis and others; long association with Charles.
  • Sue Graham Mingus—manager, later Mingus’s wife, discusses his personality and the booking scene.
  • Tom Reichman (deceased)—produced an important film about Mingus’s eviction from his loft in 1966; tells stories of Charles’s behavior and the circumstances of the film’s production.
  • Paul Jeffrey—played tenor sax for Thelonious Monk, copyist for Mingus; compares the two, talks about Mingus’s innovations and frustrations as a musician.
  • George Wein—jazz promoter and impresario, discusses their history together, evaluates Mingus as bassist and composer.
  • Max Gordon (deceased)—owner of the Village Vanguard, on their long association, Mingus’s rages, personality, his then-recent big band.
  • Dan Morgenstern—former director of the Rutgers Institute for Jazz Studies, on Mingus’s career, records, sidemen, bands, health, temperament.
  • Bobby Jones (deceased)—Mingus’s tenor player, on communication in the band, Mingus as teacher and performer, with great stories about him.
  • Regina Ryan—former editor at Alfred A. Knopf in New York, who worked with Mingus on his fictionalized autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, and had penetrating insights and stories about how that book came together.

Stay tuned, as I’ll be adding to this blog from time to time.


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