April’s Thinking About Jazz (TAJ) program, sponsored by Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation (SRDC) and held at Westminster Church on Saturday, April 26th, 2014 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. will feature author and music critic John Goodman speaking on his collection of interviews with jazz bassist Charles Mingus and ten of his musician friends and associates, with selected commentary by Goodman.

Charles Mingus was born on a military base in Nogales, Mexico, in 1922 and raised in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. His earliest influences came from church music and hearing Duke Ellington as a child, who he idolized throughout his life. He studied double bass and formal composition, also learning by absorbing the great jazz masters, as well as touring the throughout the US and all over the world with the leading musicians of the 1940’s and ‘50’s. He emerged as a leader among jazz musicians, many of whom continue to celebrate his genius today.

Mingus was equally accomplished on piano and left behind an impressive collection of compositions. He rankled at the limitations imposed upon him as a jazz musician, wanting to be known for the many musical styles that influenced him in his ongoing quest to create an ideal, eclectic form of music that would always identify him.

Moody and often difficult, Mingus could discuss any number of issues that interested him, jumping from politics to civil rights, intellectual phonies, his distaste for electronics in music, as well as rating his fellow musicians – and not always kindly. John Goodman met Mingus in the last decade of the musician’s life and was both pleased and surprised that Mingus agreed to their lengthy sessions, and at how well they got along.

In 1977, Mingus was diagnosed with the nerve disorder known as Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He spent the last years of his life in a wheelchair composing and, as he continued to lose physical strength, his last works were sung into a tape recorder. He died in Mexico in 1979. His widow, Sue Graham Mingus, created the Mingus Foundation, originally formed by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The full catalog of Mingus’ music is available at the New York Public Library and, in 1993, the Library of Congress purchased the full collection of Mingus’ music and memorabilia.

SRDC sponsors these bi-monthly presentations as part of its Jazz Night initiative held at Westminster Church, 400 I St SW. Parking is available in the church lot and on the street.  The church is located one block north of the Waterfront Station on the green line of the metro. A light lunch will be served and several door prizes distributed. Admission is free.

By: Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation

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