Mingus, Mingus, MINGUS

How a jazz artist’s relationship to black identity gave his music its stormy weather.

“My identity is mixed together with Beethoven, Bach and Brahms,” he told Sue; it pained him somewhat to be described as a jazz musician. In Beneath the Underdog, he reprinted a touching letter he wrote from Bellevue mental hospital to Nat Hentoff in 1958. He’d been listening to the Juilliard String Quartet’s recording of Bartok, marveling at how they could “transform in a second a listener’s soul and make it throb with love and beauty—just by following the scratches of a pen on a scroll.” It reminded him of his “original goal,” he said, but “a thing called ‘jazz’” took him far off his path, and he didn’t know if he’d ever get back." Adam SCHATZ.



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