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Mingus Ah Um is a studio album by American jazz musician Charles Mingus, released in October 1959 by Columbia Records.[1][2] It was his first album recorded for Columbia. The cover features a painting by S. Neil Fujita.[4] The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.[5]

Mingus Ah Um
Mingus Ah Um - Charles Mingus.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 1959 (1959-10)[1][2]
RecordedMay 5 and May 12, 1959
StudioColumbia 30th Street Studio, New York City
ProducerTeo Macero
Charles Mingus chronology
Blues & Roots
Mingus Ah Um
Mingus Dynasty


The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD calls this album "an extended tribute to ancestors" (and awards it one of their rare crowns), and Mingus's musical forebears figure largely throughout. "Better Git It In Your Soul" is inspired by gospel singing and preaching of the sort that Mingus would have heard as a child growing up in Watts, Los Angeles, California, while "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is a reference (by way of his favored headgear) to saxophonist Lester Young (who had died shortly before the album was recorded). The origin and nature of "Boogie Stop Shuffle" is self-explanatory: a twelve-bar blues with four themes and a boogie bass backing that passes from stop time to shuffle and back.

"Self-Portrait in Three Colors" was originally written for John Cassavetes' first film as director, Shadows, but was never used (for budgetary reasons). "Open Letter to Duke" is a tribute to Duke Ellington, and draws on three of Mingus's earlier pieces ("Nouroog", "Duke's Choice", and "Slippers"). "Jelly Roll" is a reference to jazz pioneer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton and features a quote of Sonny Rollins' "Sonnymoon for Two" during Horace Parlan's piano solo. "Bird Calls", in Mingus's own words, was not a reference to bebop saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker: "It wasn't supposed to sound like Charlie Parker. It was supposed to sound like birds – the first part."

"Fables of Faubus" is named after Orval E. Faubus (1910–1994), the Governor of Arkansas infamous for his 1957 stand against integration of Little Rock, Arkansas schools in defiance of U.S. Supreme Court rulings (forcing President Eisenhower to send in the National Guard). It is sometimes claimed that Columbia refused to allow the lyrics to be included on this album, though the liner notes to the 1998 reissue of the album state that the piece started life as an instrumental, and only gained the lyrics later (as can be heard on the 1960 release Presents Charles Mingus).


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic     [6]
Popmatters          [7]     [8]
Rolling Stone     [9]

Mingus Ah Um was one of fifty recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2003.

50th Anniversary reissueEdit

In 2009, Sony's Legacy Recordings released a special 2-disc 50th Anniversary Edition of Mingus Ah Um. In addition to the complete album, the Legacy Edition includes an alternative take of each of three tracks: "Bird Calls" (4:54), "Better Git It In Your Soul" (8:30), and "Jelly Roll" (6:41). The Legacy Edition of Mingus Ah Um also includes Mingus Dynasty, its companion album recorded later in 1959 (with unedited versions of five tracks shortened on the original LP release).[10][11]

Track listingEdit

All songs composed by Charles Mingus, except 12, composed by Sunny Clapp. Original LP song lengths are given within parentheses.

  1. "Better Git It in Your Soul" – 7:23
  2. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" – 5:44 (4:46)
  3. "Boogie Stop Shuffle" – 5:02 (3:41)
  4. "Self-Portrait in Three Colors" – 3:10
  5. "Open Letter to Duke" – 5:51 (4:56)
  6. "Bird Calls" – 6:17 (3:12)
  7. "Fables of Faubus" – 8:13
  8. "Pussy Cat Dues" – 9:14 (6:27)
  9. "Jelly Roll" – 6:17 (4:01)
Bonus tracks on later reissues
  1. "Pedal Point Blues" – 6:30
  2. "GG Train" – 4:39
  3. "Girl of My Dreams" – 4:08
  • When Columbia first issued the album in 1959, six of the album's nine songs (tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9) were edited in order to fit them on the LP; certain songs were shortened by several minutes. These six tracks were first restored in 1979 and three other recordings were discovered. Later reissues contain both the full-length versions of the original nine tracks and the three new tracks.[citation needed]
  • Tracks 1, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 recorded on May 5, 1959; tracks 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 and 12 recorded on May 12, 1959. All tracks recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York City.



  1. ^ a b Columbia Records (5 Oct 1959). "New in October from Columbia Records". The Billboard. The Billboard Publishing Co. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b "October Album Releases" (PDF). The Cash Box. The Cash Box Publishing Co. Inc., NY. 10 Oct 1959. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty are considered his best post-bop". The Absolute Sound (134): 55. February–March 2002.
  4. ^ "Waxing Chromatic: An Interview with S. Neil Fujita". AIGA. 2007-09-18. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  5. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (November 21, 2012). "Coltrane, Mingus, Tristano Recordings Honored by Grammy Hall of Fame: Louis Jordan, James Brown, Ray Charles also Awarded". JazzTimes.
  6. ^ "Mingus Ah Um - Charles Mingus - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Charles Mingus". PopMatters. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  8. ^ Jacob Teichroew. "Mingus Ah Um Jazz Music Album - Charles Mingus Ah Um Review". About. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  9. ^ Wolfgang Doebeling (29 October 2008). "Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Charles Mingus". Pitchfork. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  11. ^ Stuart Broomer. "Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um: 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition". All About Jazz. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Mingus Ah Um". Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  • Priestley, Brian. Sleeve notes to 1998 reissue of Mingus Ah Um (Columbia CK 65512)

External linksEdit