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Charles Mingus — one of the most important figures in twentieth century American music — wrote music that is still far ahead of its time. A virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader and composer, Mingus recorded over a hundred albums and wrote over three hundred compositions, leaving the second-largest legacy in American music after Ellington. Mingus received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Smithsonian Institute, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
The New Yorker wrote: "For sheer melodic and rhythmic and structural originality, his compositions may equal anything written in western music in the twentieth century."
Following his death in 1979 from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the Library of Congress acquired his entire catalog of work including original scores, recording tapes, and personal effects. An NEH grant enabled the cataloging of all his compositions. Microfilm copies were donated to the New York Public Library. He has also been honored with a US Postage stamp.
The critical and popular success of the Mingus repertory bands testify to the power of Mingus compositions. The availability of his music through published arrangements, educational books, school courses, and workshops, coupled with the hugely successful new Charles Mingus High School Competition, have extended the reach of his legacy. Students, musicians, scholars, and fans are exploring and embracing Mingus in ever-increasing numbers.