Charles Mingus: Triumph Of The Underdog

Coproduced by Mingus’s fourth and last wife Sue (who more recently published the memoir Tonight at Noon: A Love Story), this 1997 video documentary by Don McGlynn crams in as much as possible about the life and music of the jazz bassist, composer, and bandleader. In many ways this is a losing proposition, because Mingus’s greatness had a lot to do with his resistance to being commodified, synopsized, excerpted, or even categorized. Furthermore, the triumph of the title seems to refer more to the posthumous performance of Mingus’s magnum opus, Epitaph, conducted by Gunther Schuller, than to his actual life. But the sheer gusto of his volatile personality eventually comes across, and the music’s passionate emotion survives even in the fragments presented here. 78 min. (JR)

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