Charles Mingus 1945-1949 - African-American Jazz in California

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Charles Mingus 1945-1949 - African-American Jazz in California

February 27, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Charles Mingus- 1945-1949

Mingus in Los Angeles 1945-1949 Charles Mingus was born in Nogales, Arizona in 1922 but grew up in Los Angeles. He was interested in music from a very early age and began studying with a variety of teachers most notably Lloyd Reese and later Red Callender. He gravitated to a like-minded group of friends that included Buddy Collette and Britt Woodman.

Mingus was very serious about music and practiced constantly. There were lots of jam sessions in the area and Mingus sat in as often as possible. He would play the bass anywhere he could including trips across town on the street car. In addition to his serious demeanor when it came to music he was also rebellious and ready to fight at the least provication. He was especially concerned with racial segregation and was instrumental in the formation of the Interracial Symphony that helped lead to the amalgamation of the black and white musicians unions.

One of his first regular jobs was in the band of Al Adams followed by short stints with Louis Armstrong and Les Hite. In 1942 his friends left for active service in WW II but Mingus elected to
stay in Los Angeles.

He spent 1943 in Lee Young’s house band at the Club Alabam on Central Ave.

In 1945 he formed his own group called The Strings and Keys.

In 1946 his friends returned from the service and formed The Stars of Swing that worked Central Avenue's Downbeat Club.

He took on the nickname of “Baron” Mingus and began composing and arranging. During the mid to late forties he recorded with five different record labels that had sprung up on the west coast after the war. This included Excelsior, 4-Star, Dolphins of Hollywood, Fentone and Rex. He also appeared as a sideman with a number of artists including Ernie Andrews, Wynonie Harris, Illinois Jacquet, Dinah Washington and Howard McGhee.

In 1947 he began working with Lionel Hampton and was featured on “Mingus Fingers” which was recorded for Decca.

Some of the music he wrote in the forties wasn’t recorded until many years later including "Half Mast Inhibition" and "The Chill of Death." Half Mast Inhibition was written as early as 1941 but not recorded until 1960. Chill of Death was written around 1947 but not recorded until 1971.

His 1940s recordings are just as unique and forward looking as his more familiar classics that came along later.

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