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Myself When I Am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus
by Gene Santoro
Charles Mingus was one of the most innovative jazz musicians of the 20th century, and ranks with Ives and Ellington as one of America's greatest composers. By temperament, he was a highly-strung and sensitive romantic, a towering figure whose tempestuous personal life found powerfully coherent expression in the ever-shifting textures of his music. Now, music critic Gene Sa ...more
Hardcover, 542 pages
Published July 20th 2000 by Oxford University Press, USA
(first published 2000)
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I should start by saying that Mingus composed and organized the bands that played some of my favourite music. The book gave me insight into where he came from and the environment he worked in. I found his struggles to keep creating jazz as the economics of the music industry shifted were particularly interesting. It seems to me that Santoro also proposes that the beat movement of the post war era drew a lot of its style by appropriating the African American styles of the time. I find this an int ...more
This is a very fun biography. Mingus was a very volatile talent, both in his musical style and his personal life. He had a bad temper, didn't take shit form anyone. Santoro writes with almost a prose-like style to basically fit that fury into the lines, and it works well. It's a bit too long, but worth the read. It's almost like Mingus was a character in a Scorsese movie, chasing at people with knives, his anger a character bigger than his self at times. As a result there are some very memorable ...more
Sought this out because I had heard several crazy stories about Mingus (e.g., rehearsing his band during performances, punching out his trombone player) and have always gotten a kick out of his quirky music. Fairly well written biography about a very eccentric guy.