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Recorded: 5/5 – 12, 1959

Rating: 4.636 (average of 7 ratings)

Genre: jazz > avant garde

Quotable: --

Album Tracks:

  1. Better Get It in Yo’ Soul
  2. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
  3. Boogie Stop Shuffle
  4. Self-Portait in Three Colors
  5. Open Letter to Duke
  6. Bird Calls
  7. Fables of Faubus
  8. Pussy Cat Dues
  9. Jelly Roll


sales in U.S. only 170,000
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 170,000


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart --
peak on U.K. album chart --


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more.
Mingus Ah Um
Charles Mingus
“Charles Mingus’ debut for Columbia, Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners. While there’s also a strong case for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as his best work overall, it lacks Ah Um’s immediate acccessibility and brilliantly sculpted individual tunes. Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um” (Huey).

“The band includes longtime Mingus stalwarts already well versed in his music, like saxophonists John Handy, Shafi Hadi, and Booker Ervin, trombonists Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis, pianist Horace Parlan, and drummer Dannie Richmond. Their razor-sharp performances tie together what may well be Mingus’ greatest, most emotionally varied set of compositions. At least three became instant classics, starting with the irrepressible spiritual exuberance of signature tune Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul, taken in a hard-charging 6/8 and punctuated by joyous gospel shouts. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a slow, graceful elegy for Lester Young, who died not long before the sessions. The sharply contrasting Fables of Faubus is a savage mockery of segregationist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, portrayed musically as a bumbling vaudeville clown (the scathing lyrics, censored by skittish executives, can be heard on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus)” (Huey).

“The underrated Boogie Stop Shuffle is bursting with aggressive swing, and elsewhere there are tributes to Mingus' three most revered influences: Open Letter to Duke is a suite of three tunes; Bird Calls is inspired by Charlie Parker; and Jelly Roll is an idiosyncratic yet affectionate nod to jazz’s first great composer, Jelly Roll Morton. It simply isn’t possible to single out one Mingus album as definitive, but Mingus Ah Um comes the closest” (Huey).

Review Sources:

Last updated October 7, 2008.