Donald Macleod is joined by biographer Brian Priestley to look at how Charles Mingus progressed from being a leading double bass player, working with great names of 20th century jazz such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Art Tatum, to realising his ambitions as a composer, and how, from the beginning, he acquired a reputation for being 'bullish'.
Macleod and Priestley begin by exploring Mingus's music of the late 1950s, looking at the factors affecting his composing, from gospel influences to his working relationships with his bandmates. While some of these collaborations were successful and enduring, others ended in violence. As the 1960s began, the works Mingus wrote included several jazz portraits which pay tribute to those who influenced him, such as Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, as well as pieces reacting to the American civil rights struggle.
Donald Macleod and Brian Priestley then explore Mingus's celebrated Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, which was completed in the wake of a disastrous retrospective concert at the Town Hall in New York in 1960.
Finally, they chart Mingus's final years, by which time he had managed to achieve a resurgence and official recognition following some very dark times in the mid-1960s when he faced eviction and poverty.