Charles Mingus: The Art Of Composed Politics


Last September, I happened upon Michal Levy’s brilliant computer animation of the Coltrane classic, Giant Steps. After reading John Amato’s latest musical post on John Coltrane, I figured John and his audience would dig it. Thanks for the h/t, John.

Now, if you’re truly a political head, yet only a casual a fan of jazz, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the life work of Charles Mingus. The man lived life on the edge, spoke from the heart and translated his political perspective into complex compositions and straightforward lyrics that would make even the most polished, political pundit take notes.


Check out this quote from a review of the Mingus Big Band release of Blues & Politics:

…Mingus’ song titles are also fascinating because they are so suggestive—how does the Haitian revolution or the rise and decline of man (“Pithecanthropus Erectus“) sound? The titles make you think and pay attention to the music as it is played—this is what Mingus desired most as a performer.

Throughout his career he sought a conscientious audience working with him to bring meaning to the music. Reprinted within the liner notes of Blues & Politics is Mingus’ untitled prose poem about pledging allegiance to the American flag as well as the lyrics to “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me”, “Don’t Let It Happen Here”, and “Freedom”. These pieces reflect Mingus’ concern with justice for all Americans across racial lines…

Pure genius.