Doc: Charles Mingus 1968

By 1966, work slowed considerably for bassist and leader Charles Mingus. He hadn’t recorded a studio album since 1963 (Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus for Impulse), and live dates in 1965 were largely in Europe. Unable to pay the rent on his loft on Manhattan’s Great Jones St. in 1966, he was evicted that November along with his furnishings, music and bass and arrested after the police found hypodermic needles and a rifle in the loft. After his arrest, Mingus was able to convince the police that the needles were for vitamin C injections and that the rifle was properly licensed. The apartment Mingus subleased was supposed to be a music school he planned to start, but never did.

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During this period, Thomas Reichman filmed a documentary of Mingus expounding on a range of socio-political topics of the day and captured Mingus being evicted and arrested. We see what happens when a brilliant jazz artist tries to make sense of his times just as he’s losing his currency and status. In the years that followed, Mingus would tour relentlessly to earn a living but wouldn’t record in the studio again until 1971 (Let My Children Hear Music for Columbia).

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Reichman’s documentary, Charles Mingus 1968, was released in May of that year. It recently went up at YouTube and is a fascinating time capsule. Reichman died at age 30 in 1975 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Here is the documentary, with cameos by Sue Mingus (above), Mingus’s daughter Caroline, drummer Dannie Richmond, saxophonist Charles McPherson, and pianist Walter Bishop Jr. The footage of Mingus performing was filmed at Lennie’s on the Turnpike in Peabody, Mass. Sue and Charles Mingus met in 1964 and would be “married” in 1966 by Allen Ginsberg and then officially married in 1975. Caroline was Mingus’s daughter with his wife, Judy.