This year marks the centennial of the birth of Charles Mingus: bassist, composer, bandleader and a towering figure in jazz history.

Born in Nogales, Ariz. on April 22, 1922, Mingus was raised in Los Angeles in a home where his mother only allowed church music. That didn’t last long, and young Mingus soon discovered jazz, and the artist who would be his greatest influence: Duke Ellington.

Mingus made his reputation as one of the most proficient and powerful bass players in jazz, but he started out on the cello — still rare, but not unknown, in jazz today. An orchestral career was not a possibility for a Black musician in those years, and Mingus moved to the bass. His encounters with racism and injustice fired his anger and he was tagged “the angry man of jazz” for his vocal, vehement stand against racism, prominent in his suite Fables of Faubus that castigated the Arkansas governor over the Little Rock Crisis.

Choosing five of Mingus’s best recordings is just a sampling. His deep knowledge, his powerful and unceasing commitment to the fight against discrimination, and his love of jazz shine through in every track he recorded. Celebrate the centennial of Mingus by immersing yourself in his music, which is as vital, compelling and affecting now as it ever was.