Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Mingus Epitaph

10. Epitaph (Columbia, 1989)

The story of Epitaph is as much of an epic as the music itself. Mingus attempted to record it in October 1962 (at the aforementioned Town Hall fiasco), then put it away, convinced he would never hear it in its entirety. (Hence the name, perhaps.) After his death in 1979, his work was still being catalogued when a researcher at Concordia University discovered the 500-page, 4,000-plus-measure manuscript. Two years, 30 musicians, and 10 rehearsals later, it received its world premiere at New York’s Alice Tully Hall in June 1989. Again, excerpting it would defeat the purpose, despite its 2½-hour length and the fact that many of its sections are familiar tunes. It all needs to be listened to as a single piece, lived with, contemplated. Let it overwhelm you. That’s what Mingus does.