I highly recommend this video
Robert D. Glover Jr. | Linden, NJ USA | 02/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are so many good things to say about this video. Let me start with saying that Mingus's "Epitaph" is covered in detail: both the 1962 Town Hall performance that was a disaster and the Gunther Schuller tribute perfomance made after Monk's death, are both amply covered including interviews with key musicians who played in both performances. One of the musicians interviewed had two of his front teeth knocked out when Mingus belted him in the mouth during an argument concerning who would do some of the orchestrations for "Epitaph". There are interviews with two of Mingus's wives, and towards the end there is an interview with one of Mingus's sons. I personally have read Mingus's wierd "autobiography" and that was a great help priming me to really enjoy this video. There are a lot of video clips of various concerts that Mingus gave, and these are valuable both because they show Mingus playing bass as well as conducting his own music. I was watching a bass player last night at Birdland on 44th Street in NYC, and I was very surprised to notice while watching this video today that the bass player, a young woman from Norway, was copying Mingus's style of plunking the lowest string to make a woody, vibratory sound. I recently heard the Charles Mingus sampler by Ken Burns and as a result of that CD was already beginning to develop a respect for the beauty of Mingus' distinctive compositional sound. This video helped me to better understand why Mingus has so many loyal fans. I am well on my way to becoming one of them. In summary, I think this video is very worthwhile. There are a *lot* of other good things about this video I have not even touched upon in this brief review. The people who made this video put a lot of thought and care and effort into making it."
One of the best jazz documentaries
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen a lot of the many jazz biographies and this one is probably the best. If this isn't the best, it's right near the top. I found it very involving, dramatic and sometimes quite funny. Mingus was a fascinating personality, and this documentary gets into many aspects of his character. A lot of the press about him emphasizes the violent side of Mingus, but there were many other aspects, which this documentary thankfully explores. There is quite a fascinating array of films clips of Mingus, most of which I haven't seen before. And there many other interviews. Probably the most interesting is when two of his wives are interviewed together. Quite engrossing. Really a great documentary. Don't miss it."
Great Mingus Footage, Bad Documentary
Robert D. Glover Jr. | 12/31/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I must agree with the review entitled 'disappointed'. I am an avid collector of Mingus records and am familiar with much of his career. This attempt at a portrait of Mingus is poorly constructed and fails to provide even a basic overview of his life and music. There is no chronology as tantalising snippts of film jump from the seventies back to the fifties, with scarce an opportunity to listen to an extended piece. Rather than allow the rare concert footage and original recordings to 'speak for themselves', the filmmakers lean heavily on ponderous and repetitive interviews that either emphasise how volatile a personality was Mingus or how he was an American equivalent of a Schoenberg. There is virtually no discussion of any one of his many innovative recordings, and the film moves briskly through his 'golden period' of roughly '55 to '65 with little mention of his many great achievements. We are told repeatedly what a great composer and bassist Mingus was, and yet the film includes precious little footage of Mingus and his bands performing. As mentioned, the chronology of the footage is so poorly arranged that there is no sense of what a remarkable period of activity Mingus sustained during that ten year period in which the vast bulk of his classic recordings were made.
A disappointment, but worth having for the rare Mingus footage. But this poor excuse for a documentary does not serve as a good introduction to his career."
A fascinatin work
Robert D. Glover Jr. | 05/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wasn't that familiar with jazz music before I saw this documentary, but I found it fascinating and very moving. The music was involving, and the life story very dramatic. It made me want to explore this music much more. A great documentary."