Bassist-bandleader-composer Charles Mingus remains one of the most important figures in the history of recorded sound. A jazzman of uncommon versatility, his extensive achievement is deeply linked to a voluminous personality and an occasionally volatile temper. In 1963, as part of a brief, fertile association with Impulse! Records, he waxed The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady; it’s widely rated as the apex of his career, which in turn awards it placement amongst the great moments in 20th century music. A vinyl reissue is out now courtesy of Superior Viaduct.
Please forgive me if I’ve fallen egregiously behind the times, but I continue to perceive the goal of education as more than a factory churning out highly efficient producers brandishing economically useful skills, a mass of graduates left to dodge underemployment in hopes of spending decades in the modern workplace’s existential ditch. But maybe I’m just frightfully naive in considering higher learning as the valiant endeavoring to intellectually engage with generations of individuals, hopefully leaving them at least somewhat prepared for the ups and downs of existence, and potentially armed in adulthood with the knowledge to utilize portions of history’s immense landscape to their advantage.
And not only history but art, which is easily the most disrespected component in contemporary academe. This may come as a shock to anyone aware of the number of art schools, conservatories, and Liberal Arts institutions taking up residence from sea to shining sea, but my observation concerns quality rather than quantity; to get down to the matter at hand, while Charles Mingus’ life and music are far from absent in the educational curriculum, I know of no school offering an extended, intensive course in Mingus Studies.