Although recorded in 1957, “Tijuana Moods” wouldn’t see a formal release until 1962. It soundtracked the complexities of immigration in the 1950s southwest while reflecting Mingus' lonesome past. Mingus was born in a small border town in Arizona called Nogales, where his military father guarded against illegal crossings. Inspired by Mexican music like Spanish guitars and clipped rhythms, Mingus refracted the style into his musical vocabulary. He occasionally borrowed directly, like on the track “Ysabel’s Table Dance,” featuring castanets and all. But it is still a jazz album in Mingus’s bluesy bebop, making it one of the first examples of jazz fusion almost ten years before Miles Davis would popularize the genre.
“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.