One of Mingus’ most popular albums, “Mingus Ah Um” falls in a category all of his own. It was released in 1959, a year with no shortage of incredible jazz albums, from Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” to Ornette Coleman’s “Shape of Jazz to Come.” But despite the dense competition, the album is remembered for not outdoing any of those records but rather subverting them. Mingus was always a man of his own making, for better or worse. Not having a stable childhood, Mingus developed many issues as a man who raised himself but could interpret the world as he saw it. “Mingus Ah Um” distills his unique perception into passionate music singularly Mingus.
“The Angry Man of Jazz,” or so he would become known, Charles Mingus’s music was as unpredictable as he was. He’d earn his reputation by firing gigging musicians mid-set and breaking instruments. During one especially heated moment, he punched trombonist Jimmy Knepper in the jaw, literally changing how Knepper would play trombone for the rest of his life by ruining his embouchure. But his passion always translated into his music. He believed the making of a good set was the breakdown, mentally not musically. Happiness, sadness, anger and all human emotion were translated into his music. He’d become known as a seminal jazz artist and one of the best to hail from the southwest United States.