Pithecanthropus Erectus (album)

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Pithecanthropus Erectus
Pithecanthropus Erectus.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly or August 1956 (1956)[1][2][3]
RecordedJanuary 30, 1956
StudioAudio-Video Studios
New York City
GenreJazz, post-bop
LabelAtlantic, America
ProducerNesuhi Ertegun
Charles Mingus chronology
The Charles Mingus Quintet & Max Roach
Pithecanthropus Erectus
The Clown

Pithecanthropus Erectus is a 1956 album by jazz composer and bassist Charles Mingus. Mingus noted that this was the first album where he taught arrangements to his musicians by ear in lieu of putting the chords and arrangements in writing.[4]


According to Mingus' liner notes, the title song is a ten-minute tone poem, depicting the rise of man from his hominid roots (Pithecanthropus erectus) to an eventual downfall due to "his own failure to realize the inevitable emancipation of those he sought to enslave, and his greed in attempting to stand on a false security." The song's title translates into "Upright Ape-Man", which holds a dual meaning with "upright" referring to Mingus' bass.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Q magazine4/5 stars[5]
Vibe(not rated)[6]
Allmusic5/5 stars [7]

The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave it a maximum four-star rating and added it to its core collection, describing it as "One of the truly great modern jazz albums".[8] In the same review, "the all-in ensemble work" in parts of the first track, "Pithecanthropus Erectus", is described as being "absolutely crucial to the development of free collective improvisation in the following decade".

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Charles Mingus except where noted.

  1. "Pithecanthropus Erectus" – 10:36
  2. "A Foggy Day" – 7:50 (George Gershwin)
  3. "Profile of Jackie" – 3:11
  4. "Love Chant" – 14:59




  • Tom Dowd – recording engineering
  • Hal Lustig – recording engineering


  1. ^ Liner notes to Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956-1961
  2. ^ Editorial Staff, Cash Box (4 August 1956). "August Album Releases" (PDF). The Cash Box. The Cash Box Publishing Co. Inc., NY. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  3. ^ Billboard Aug 25, 1956
  4. ^ Huey, Steve. "Pithecanthropus Erectus - Charles Mingus | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  5. ^ "The essential early Mingus set" (December 2001) Q, p. 160.
  6. ^ "The Vibe 100" (December 1999) Vibe, p.162. (Included in Vibe's 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century.)
  7. ^ Huey, Steve. "Pithecanthropus Erectus - Charles Mingus | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  8. ^ Cook, Richard & Morton, Brian (2008) The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, p. 1001. Penguin.