Mingus, Charles mĭng´gəs [key], 1922–79, American jazz musician, b. Nogales, Ariz. Mingus was a bassist, pianist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist. He was one of the most important jazz composers of the 20th cent. and an influence on a broad spectrum of musicians. A charismatic, demanding, and sometimes violent risk-taker, Mingus created works with unconventional structures and innovative harmonies. In the 1950s and 60s he led groups noted for their collective improvisations, loose rhythms, and high energy. At various times in his career he played with Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo, Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington, to whom he dedicated his Open Letter to Duke. He organized his first group, a sextet, in 1945, and later (1955) formed the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop, a group that brought him worldwide acclaim. His compositions include the ambitious Epitaph, first performed in 1989 Fables of Faubus Better Git It in Your Soul and Sues Changes.
See his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog (1971) biographies by B. Priestly (1982) and G. Santoro (2000).