An accomplished jazz composer, pianist, bassist and bandleader, Charles Mingus developed an innovative style and unmistakable identity by melding counter melodies with inner harmonies. Born on April 22, 1922, in Nogales, Arizona, Mingus studied classical piano as a child. He began playing bass at the age of 16 and wrote his first concert piece — Half-mast Inhibition — at 17. Known for his diverse musical interests, Mingus integrated many forms of music into his compositions, including European classical, gospel, the Blues, jazz and folk songs. He was inspired by the orchestral structures of Duke Ellington and the improvised melodic lines of Charlie Parker as well as the compositions of Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy. In the early 40s, Mingus toured with bands led by such jazz legends as Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Lionel Hampton. As a bassist, Mingus had a powerful instrumentation that lent itself to solo performances rather than accompaniment. During the early 50s, he established the Jazz Workshop for young composers, providing struggling musicians with a place to perform and record their works. But his most lasting legacy is as a composer himself. His more than 300 works form the largest body of jazz composition after Duke Ellington. Original Mingus scores are housed in the Library of Congress along with the works of Beethoven and Mozart. His works are still being carried on by such groups as The Mingus Big Band, The Mingus Dynasty and the “Epitaph” Orchestra.
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