Sunday, April 4, 2010

Two Charles Mingus Films


Charles Mingus is a standard for modern jazz, and those charismatic musicians who were prominent in myth-making, as well as making spontaneous music. There are two documentaries about him:

Mingus (1968)

A 1968 portrait of the great jazz musician going through some particularly hard times in a life that seems to constitute the definition of turbulence. The Village Voice called this “the first jazz film about jazz,” and surely the implication (that jazz films have never really been about jazz) is undeniable. Directed effectively by Thomas Reichman (1944-75), and filmed in November 1966 in various locations around New York City and the musical portions were filmed in Lennie's On The Turnpike which was a jazz club in West Peabody, MA, north of Boston.

Footage from various club dates punctuated by poetry and all of it woven filming Mingus and his daughter during the final moments before they are evicted from the Manhattan studio where Mingus hoped to build a new jazz school. With: Charles Mingus, Lonnie Hillyer, Charles McPherson, John Gilmore, Walter Bishop, Dannie Richmond.



Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog (1998)

An excellent documentary produced by Mingus's wife Sue, including numerous TV clips of Charles Mingus in performance and in interview over the years plus clips from the documentary discussed above, "Mingus" (1968). Also interviews with Gunther Schuller, Wynton Marsalis, John Handy, Sue Mingus, Celia Mingus, Jerome Richardson, Randy Brecker, Brian Priestley, Britt Woodman, Snooky Young, Eddie Bert, Andrew Homzy, Lew Soloff, Jimmy Knepper, Don Butterfield, George Adams, Jack Walrath, Dorian Mingus. Also film clips of the Duke Ellington and the Lionel Hampton bands and Dannie Richmond.
Read Jonathan Rosenbaum's article about the film and Mingus himself in his website.


2 comments:

  1. One minor correction: Most of "Mingus" was filmed in NYC, but the musical portions were filmed in Lennie's On The Turnpike (not Cat Lennie's On The Turnpike) which was a jazz club in West Peabody, MA, north of Boston. I was there that day.

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  2. Thanks Anonymous! now it's corrected.

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