Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Mingus: A Critical Biography (A Da Capo paperback) Paperback – March 22, 1984
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
The British pianist and journalist Brian Priestly has written the first biography of Charles Mingus, and it's an excellent piece of work. His emphasis tends to be on the music, which he discusses in a lucid and lively manner. But Priestly recounts the life, too, exalting Mingus's devotion to his art and treating even his most self-destructive fiascoes with even-handed sympathy.
From the Back Cover
In this new biography Brian Priestley has written a masterly study of Mingus's dynamic career from the early years in Swing, to the escapades of the Bebop era, through his musical maturity in the 50's when he directed a band that redefined collective improvisation in jazz. The book views Mingus as a black artist increasingly politicized by his situation, but also unreliable as a witness to his own persecution.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I have studied Mingus in depth, and Priestly has given me a huge amount of information that has added to my knowledge of Mingus and his music.
An example of how helpful this book can be is that I wrote a review on Amazon of the fairly recent Mingus CD called "Complete 1961-1962 Birdland Broadcasts." Another reader asked me about some of the compositions on that recording versus another one he owned. I was able to answer his question because of the detailed information in this book.
This book is not just a detailed discography, it is also offers in-depth biographical details of Mingus at the time the recordings were being made.
An essential book for anyone interested in Mingus.
However, Brian Priestley does not capture the full measure of the man and his music. I'm not sure what the subtitle "A Critical Biography" is meant to convey, but there is not enough musical criticism. Particularly in the second half of the book, Priestley resorts to an "and then he wrote" approach, painstakingly detailing every new composition or derivative, and every new musician in the ever-changing Mingus ensemble. There is musical analysis, but often it is more technical than critical. Referring to a song on "East Coasting" Priestley writes, "it incorporates passages of G minor twelve-bar blues only slightly different from the opening of `Eulogy' (Im/bVImaj\bII7\V7 instead of Im|bVImaj7\IIm7b5\v7)." The first part of this sentence is the more revealing: "It is a tribute to Mingus' maturing methodology that ideas are shown to be capable of repetition and rearrangement."
This does not go far enough, though. Why did Mingus "cross-breed" so many of his works, as Priestley notes but never really examines. The reasons (aesthetic, psychological--practical in the case of "Slop") for the similarities among some works (e.g., "Better Get Hit Into Yo Soul", "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting", "Slop," and other compositions is never really explored. Were Mingus' edits across versions and his reworking of similar themes an attempt to forge a new "traditional" folk music within a mere two decades? (Perhaps this hypothesis is off, but I would have preferred that Priestley write a more encompassing analysis of both the whole of Mingus' work and its constituent parts.)
Conversely, we may praise the author for not indulging in psycho-biography, for including extensive well-documented quotes from Mingus as well as other musicians, and for describing enough on-stage Mingus behavior to get a sense of his personality. One might want to read the excellent though brief "Mingus/Mingus: Two Memoirs" for a better look at the offstage Mingus and his relationships with non-musicians.
The strength of the book is the extensive documentation of the entire Mingus discography, the ever shifting lineups, and both the recorded and non-recorded performances. This must have been a labor of love, as Priestley gives the definitive record of Mingus' output and how the performances map onto the different albums. The appendices include musical notations of ten (!) bass excerpts, a second-by-second structural analysis of "The Black Saint...,"and notes to all citations in the book. This is invaluable for the Mingus fan.
Priestley's writing can be awkward, "She it was who wrote....," and strained "Any minimally serious astrological guide will describe the typical Taurean as having outsized physical appetites; what is perhaps even more relevant to Mingus is the ability to treat extramarital affairs (like the ice-cream [sic] of which he was so fond) as a dessert complementing, but in no way threatening, any long-established relationship."
Despite the reservations noted above, I can recommend this book as a comprehensive resource for Mingus fans. It also includes enough personal information and sympathy (through interview excerpts with Mingus and others) that one begins to appreciate his complexities. There are a few clues to his Joycean autobiography, "Beneath the Underdog," and one gets a good sense of the racial tensions and injustices battled by Mingus. Finally, judging from the reviews of the other major Mingus biography, "Myself When I Am Real," this is the best book currently available. It will be enhanced, however, if read with the aforementioned autobiography (as perplexing as it is) and "Mingus/Mingus," as well as the brief but excellent critiques in "The Penguin Guide to Jazz." Includes 25 black and white photos, notes, appendices, and an extensive index.
I blame the publisher for a work that attempts to deliver so much, but does not have the number of words to make it work. I also strongly feel the editor failed miserably for not making critical calls as the book began to take shape.
The major point of interest is a listing of major recordings that Mingus accomplished in his vast career. But when the highlight is a part of the appendix, it speaks loudly about the text!
Mingus: A Critical Biography is hardly a definitive work on the oftentimes controversial life of the musical genius. I cannot even recommend it as a primer since those looking for an in-depth exploration on any of the three categories mentioned above will be sorely disappointed.
Most recent customer reviews
1. A depiction of Mingus the man, including a psychological and/or anecdotal interpretation of his character?Read more