Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by olps, Jan 9, 2002.
Does any one know any interesting facts about Charles Mingus? Thanks alot.
Legend has it that more than a couple of his musicians made a habit of carrying a gun to rehearsal - he was allegedly that crazy and intense.
He occasionally fancied himself as a pimp.
Check out Brian Priestly's biography of him. That cat was so crazy and intense the book is full of interesting stuff. He was always punching guys in the face and firing them while on the bandstand. But one of my favorites is the time he advertised an avante-garde jazz concert, then had a bunch of kids that didn't know how to play any instruments play behind a curtain. Thinking it was actual musicians playing, the audience went nuts loving it. Mingus pulled back the curtain revealing the kids and cursed out the audience.
Priestley's book on Mingus is an outstanding read. It's only a little over 200 pages, and is hard to put down.
I met a guy, a high-profile entertainment-biz lawyer, who is an interesting gent. In the early 60's he owned a jazz club in Vancouver and had this story to tell from when Charlie played there. (Paraphrased, of course...)
Anyhow, the deal was that while Mingus was playing, someone from the audience made some kind of racial slur and Mingus immediately laid his bass down and accosted the guy. They were standing at the bottom of a stairwell arguing with some pushing and the like, when Mingus finally lost his temper, grabbed the guy (a big guy, the lawyer highlighted) by the collar and the belt buckle, and threw him up about seven or eight stairs. He then straightened himself out and went back to finish the tune -- the band didn't stop playing for the whole event.
I like the story about how he had a really loud, inattentive audience. They were talking and loudly eating (clinking glasses & silverware etc) thoughout his set. Finally he got so mad, he said "If you guys are just here for dinner, so are we." Then he ordered sandwiches for the band and they spent the rest of the set eating on stage.
Mingus played in Kansas City at a summer Jazz in the Park show in the mid 70s. He had Ricky Ford and Danny Richmond with him (cant remember the others). Sound reinforcement was by a local guy who owned a stereo shop and dabbled in pro audio on the side. There was some great music in the first set, but also some obvious technical problems. Eventually Charles stepped to the mic and announced Were going to take a break now. Somebody tell the sound man to meet me behind the stage, and to bring his razor; Ill bring mine. That was when I knew I was having the complete Mingus experience.
P.S. That might have been the last time I saw the local guy run a board
I heard that Mingus once challenged Lennie Tristano to a fight. Lennie[who was blind] agreed as long as it was in a darkened room. I don't think the fight ever occurred.
A friend of mine from Pittsburgh actually told me a nice anecdote about Mingus. Mingus was gigging at a local club during the '60's, and my friend and a buddy could not get in, either because the club was full or because they were underage. They went around to the back of the club, probably to try to sneak in, and Mingus was outside, eating some dinner. They talked to Mingus for a while, then Mingus told them to come inside with him. Mingus then introduced them to the club owner as "my cousins" (pretty funny, since they are white) and had the guy squeeze in a place for them to sit.
I would recommend reading Mingus' "Beneath the Underdog" then reading Priestly's book. They go together nicely, which I think was Priestly's intention.
I'd take a lot of the stuff in Beneath the Underdog with a grain of salt. It's not really intended as an autobiography as much as a piece of Beat fiction based on real events. That said, it's still a great read.
I saw Mingus at a Sunday afternoon gig. Very bright day. Mingus was at a table with 6 or 7 women and men. Charlie wore a black MacGregor 'drizzler' jacket. A white musician friend came in, wearing a white 'drizzler.' Charlie's smiling and hugging the guy. Then they realized the coincidence of their jackets. Then some of the guests noticed. Without missing a beat, with a straight face, Charlie says to the women, "His is just like mine, except his is white, and mine's black."
Not to piss everybody off, but in those days, I was catching Rollins with Monk, Johnny Griffin with Monk, Miles' sextet, Mingus sextet, Blakey, Silver, Zoot, et al, every weekend for months at a time.
You just HAD to get that in, didn't you, Don?
Oh, yeah. Beneath the Underdog is probably about as factual as Naked Lunch. Like I said, read BTU to soak up the Mingus attitude, then read Priestly's book to get something closer to the truth.
I am currently reading "Myself When I am Real" by Santoro. It is kind of slow at the begining, but is a good read. There is a story in it where Mingus was so fed up with the crowd making noise, that he stopped playing, threw his bass on the ground, and then walked over and pushed the piano down the stage stairs.
I am reading Santoro's book right now and like it a lot. Picked up the hardcover edition (reg. $30) for $9.95 at www.hamiltonbook.com
Heres a funny story I read in Miles's Autobiography.
Mingus and Roach were driving from NY to CA and they were gonna stop by and pick up Miles on the way, who was in St Louis kicking his habit. They picked him up and they have all sorts of conversations on the long long drive. Mingus used to talk and talk and talk. But they were talking about white people and stuff and Mingus said "Max, if you saw a dog in the road and you were in your new car and you could either hit the dog and not damage the car or swerve and damage it... what would you do??" Max said he would hit it. Mingus flipped out and said he was not any better than white people and that he himself would swerve. A few months later Miles finds out that Mingus knocked one of the wheels off Max Roach's new car that he borrowed from max becuase he was swerving so he wouldnt hit a cat. Miles was crackin up, Roach was pissed.
I just thought that was kinda a funny story.
More Mingus stuff, this time from his last wife.
Read it fast; the Times archives its material within a week.
Sue Mingus told a cool story at an interview I saw at the NO Jazz Fest. Apparently this one time Mingus yelled at the waiter at some club for walking across right in front of the stage during the sax solo.