Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Because his violent and obnoxious, oft-intolerable presence overshadowed his musical intuition, Charles Mingus' 1979 death enabled many, for the very first time, to see beyond the difficult individual and into the scope of his accomplishments. He thus cut much of his legacy posthumously -- largely for his ability to pull the bass from the backdrop to the forefront of the songscape, and for an astoundingly ambitious melding of styles -- co-mingling elements of swing, bop, Dixieland, Latin jazz, and classical with consistent unpredictability. In the decade or two prior to his passing, Mingus broke with formalism, opting to split song composition between the players of his ensemble, and thus made room for improv. Free, loose, and easy -- as casually strung-together as these ingenious later compositions -- the documentary Charles Mingus: Mingus 68 -- Mingus in Greenwich Village draws on dozens of interviews with Mingus contemporaries and jazz historians, who expostulate on countless subjects directly and tangentially related to the man -- creating an impressionistic picture of Mingus' life, outlook, and accomplishments. The film also intercuts performance footage of jazz luminaries Lonnie Hiller, Charles McPherson, John Gilmore, Walter Bishop, Dannie Richmond, and Mingus himself, to resurrect the performer's sound for audiences and help viewers place it in musical and historical contexts.