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Final Chorus: What About Mingus?

In our conversations, Duke Ellington never called his music jazz. He opposed putting any music in categories. So too did Charles Mingus, who said of his compositions and performances that they were-and still are-“Mingus music. I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.”

For most of us for whom jazz is a common part of our language, no other originals in the history of the music so far have equaled Ellington and Mingus in the multi-dimensional power and range of their creations. When Mingus, as a youngster in Los Angeles, first heard Duke’s band, “I almost jumped out of the balcony. One piece excited me so much that I screamed.”

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Originally Published
Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Over more than 60 years, Nat Hentoff (1925-2017) wrote about music, politics, and many other subjects for a variety of publications, including DownBeat (which he edited from 1953 to 1957), the Village Voice (where he was a weekly columnist from 1958 to 2009), the Wall Street Journal, and JazzTimes, to which he regularly contributed the Final Chorus column from 1998 to 2012. Of the 32 books that he wrote, co-wrote, or edited, 10 focus on jazz. In 2004, Hentoff became the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award for jazz advocacy.