Charles Mingus Jr. (April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979) was an American jazz double bassist, pianist, composer and bandleader. His compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop, drawing heavily from black gospel music and blues, while sometimes containing elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and classical music. He once cited Duke Ellington and church as his main influences.
Mingus espoused collective improvisation, similar to the old New Orleans jazz parades, paying particular attention to how each band member interacted with the group as a whole. In creating his bands, he looked not only at the skills of the available musicians, but also their personalities. Many musicians passed through his bands and later went on to impressive careers. He recruited talented and sometimes little-known artists, whom he utilized to assemble unconventional instrumental configurations. As a performer, Mingus was a pioneer in double bass technique, widely recognized as one of the instrument’s most proficient players.
Charles Mingus was born in Nogales, Arizona. His father, Charles Mingus Sr., was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Mingus was largely raised in the Watts area of Los Angeles. His maternal grandfather was a Chinese British subject from Hong Kong, and his maternal grandmother was an African-American from the southern United States. Mingus was the third great-grandson of the family’s founding patriarch who was, by most accounts, a German immigrant. His ancestors included German American, African American, Native American.