Great Jazz Bassists

Charles Mingus

portrait of Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus was born in 1922 and raised in California. His earliest influence was Duke Ellington and studied formally with the principle bassist of the New York Philharmonic. His first touring bands were with Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, and Lionel Hampton.

When he settled in New York, he played and recorded with the leading musicians of the 1950’s including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington. Mingus quickly became a band leader himself, which was unusual for a bassist at that time.

He soon became one of the innovators in the avant-garde movement, and compiled an extraordinary body of creative works. He wrote his first original piece when he was seventeen and recorded it twenty years later with a 22-piece orchestra.

Until his death in 1979, he remained at the forefront of American music although he had contracted a rare nerve disease that caused him to lose his ability to perform. His last works were sung into a tape recorder and transcribed. He was one of the major American composers and this was evidenced by the award of National Endowment for the Arts grants from the Smithsonian Institute and the Guggenheim Foundation.


  • Baron Mingus - West Coast 1945–49 (1949, Uptown)
  • Charles Mingus Octet (1953, Debut)
  • The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963, Impulse!)
  • Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert (1972, Columbia)
  • Changes One (1974, Atlantic)
  • His Final Work (1977)

For links to more information and an index of the holdings of the Charles Mingus Collection at the Library of Congress, and other discographies, visit:,,, and