Jazz: Beneath the Underdog

Charlie Mingus is a short, hulking, brooding man who for years has been recognized as the greatest jazz virtuoso ever to thump a bass fiddle. At the Monterey Jazz Festival last week, his Meditations for a Pair of Wire Cutters demonstrated that he must be ranked among the greatest of jazz composers.

When the curtains parted, the composer was crouched over his fiddle, eyes hooded in dark glasses, sweat beading his forehead, his orientally sinister mustache drooping. He leaned over his big bass and began to bow. The mournful, dolorous, lyrical introduction swelled into the horns' full statement of the...

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