Mingus Ah Um

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Mingus Ah Um
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 1959 (1959-10)[1][2]
Recorded5–12 May 1959
StudioColumbia 30th Street (New York City)
GenrePost-bop, jazz[3][4]
Length45:53 Original edited LP
57:07 Unedited LP and CD versions
ProducerTeo Macero
Charles Mingus chronology
Jazz Portraits: Mingus in Wonderland
Mingus Ah Um
Blues & Roots

Mingus Ah Um is a studio album by American jazz musician Charles Mingus which was 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.[5] The title is a corruption of an imaginary Latin declension. It is common for Latin students to memorize Latin adjectives by first saying the masculine nominative (usually ending in "-us"), then the feminine nominative ("-a"), and finally the neuter nominative singular ("-um")[6]—implying a transformation of his name, Mingus, Minga, Mingum. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.[7]


The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD calls this album "an extended tribute to ancestors" (and awards it one of their rare crowns),[8] 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). Columbia Records refused to allow the lyrics to the song to be included,[9] and so the song was recorded as an instrumental on the album.[10][11] It was not until October 20, 1960, that the song was recorded with lyrics, for the album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, which was released on the more independent Candid label.[10] Due to contractual issues with Columbia, the song could not be released as "Fables of Faubus", and so the Candid version was titled "Original Faubus Fables".[12]

Edited and unedited versions[edit]

The original Columbia Records LP release of the album featured edited versions of six of the nine compositions. For these tracks, from one to three minutes of the performances were removed, both to meet the playing time constraints of the LP format, and because producer Teo Macero felt the pieces were more effective in edited form. Unedited versions of these pieces were first released in 1979, on LP. The first widely-available CD edition of the album, 1987's "Columbia Jazz Masterpieces" edition, used the original LP edits. The edited version has been reissued on compact disc subsequent to 1987, including a 2019 release by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. The unedited version of the album was first widely released on compact disc in 1998 as part of the Sony Legacy series, and it too has remained available through additional compact disc reissues.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Rolling Stone[16]
Tom HullA+[17]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings + crown[8]

Mingus Ah Um was one of fifty recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2003. The album was ranked number 380 of the Top 500 Albums of All-Time by Rolling Stone in 2020.[18]

50th anniversary reissue[edit]

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).[19][20]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Charles Mingus, except "Girl of My Dreams", composed by Sunny Clapp.

Side one
1."Better Git It in Your Soul"7:22
2."Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (original LP length: 4:48)5:44
3."Boogie Stop Shuffle" (original LP length: 3:43)5:02
4."Self-Portrait in Three Colors"3:06
5."Open Letter to Duke" (original LP length: 4:56)5:51
Side two
1."Bird Calls" (original LP length: 3:12)6:17
2."Fables of Faubus"8:14
3."Pussy Cat Dues" (original LP length: 6:30)9:14
4."Jelly Roll" (original LP length: 4:02)6:17
Total length:45:53 (1959)
57:07 (1979)
Bonus tracks on later reissues
10."Pedal Point Blues"6:30
11."GG Train"4:39
12."Girl of My Dreams"4:08
  • When Columbia first issued the album in 1959, six of the album's nine tracks (tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9) were shortened in order to fit them on the LP. 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; some reissues retain the 1959 truncated versions.[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.



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[22] Silver 60,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b Columbia Records (Oct 5, 1959). "New in October from Columbia Records". The Billboard. Cincinnati: The Billboard Publishing Co. p. 43.
  2. ^ a b Ostrow, Marty; Howard, Ira, eds. (Oct 10, 1959). "October Album Releases" (PDF). The Cash Box. Vol. XXI, no. 4. New York: The Cash Box Publishing Co. p. 39.
  3. ^ Santoro, Gene (1997). Stir It Up: Musical Mixes from Roots to Jazz. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 9780195098693.
  4. ^ "Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty are considered his best post-bop". The Absolute Sound (134): 55. February–March 2002.
  5. ^ "Waxing Chromatic: An Interview with S. Neil Fujita". AIGA. 2007-09-18. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  6. ^ a b Feather, Leonard (November 26, 1959). "Mingus Ah Um". DownBeat. Chicago. Archived from the original on October 14, 2020. Retrieved Oct 14, 2020.
  7. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (November 21, 2012). "Coltrane, Mingus, Tristano Recordings Honored by Grammy Hall of Fame: Louis Jordan, James Brown, Ray Charles also Awarded". JazzTimes. Archived from the original on October 29, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 1002. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  9. ^ Santoro 2001, p. 154
  10. ^ a b Monson 2007, p. 183
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Monson 2007, p. 264
  13. ^ "Mingus Ah Um - Charles Mingus - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Charles Mingus". PopMatters. 8 July 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  15. ^ Jacob Teichroew. "Mingus Ah Um Jazz Music Album - Charles Mingus Ah Um Review". About. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  16. ^ Wolfgang Doebeling (29 October 2008). "Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  17. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Essential Jazz Albums of the 1950s". tomhull.com. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  18. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  19. ^ "Charles Mingus". Pitchfork. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  20. ^ Stuart Broomer (30 August 2009). "Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um: 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition". All About Jazz. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  21. ^ "Mingus Ah Um". Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  22. ^ "British album certifications – Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  • Monson, Ingrid (2007). Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512825-3.
  • Santoro, Gene (2001). Myself When I Am Real: the life and music of Charles Mingus. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514711-7.
  • Priestley, Brian. Sleeve notes to 1998 reissue of Mingus Ah Um (Columbia CK 65512)

External links[edit]