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Charles Mingus was larger than life in every sense of the phrase. His heft seemed perfectly suited to his instrument, the double bass, which he wielded like a weapon, literally and figuratively. Towering talents, as both a player and composer, were matched by an explosive temper, which he legendarily unleashed on his sidemen. Mingus’ tempestuous nature no doubt contributed to some unforgettable music, combining the sounds of the church and the after-hours blues jam on fiery tunes such as “Better Git It in Your Soul” and “Fables of Faubus,” which stood as statements of Black cultural pride and protest at the height of the civil rights struggle. Of course, Mingus’ reverence for Duke Ellington’s sophistication and his utilization of spoken-word performance add other dimensions to his art, as do sensitive ballads such as “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” his elegiac salute to Lester Young. It is the legacy of this complex individual that we continue to celebrate in his centennial year.A generation of music fans was introduced to the era-spanning jazz giant through Joni Mitchell’s 1979 release Mingus, in which the singer-songwriter collaborated with the ailing bassist on an ambitious set of jazz-influenced rock. In addition to penning poetic, image-laden lyrics to “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and taking direct inspiration from Mingus — especially on the charming yet revealing “God Must Be a Boogie Man” — with whom she spent a privileged few weeks, Mitchell also led a remarkable band, featuring Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and another bass icon, Jaco Pastorius.Pastorius’ legacy, like Mingus’, continues to echo through the corridors of jazz. Like Jimmy Blanton, the Ellington sideman and major Mingus influence who all but invented the modern jazz vocabulary for bass, Pastorius forever changed the way his instrument — the fretless electric bass — was played. His virtuosity sang out clearly on stage and in the studio with Mitchell and fusion all-stars Weather Report, as well as on his own recordings, which further revealed his compositional genius. Like Mingus, Pastorius had his demons, and like Blanton, he died all too young. Mingus’ centennial falls on a particularly good year for bass players. Christian McBride, Ron Carter (in the company of Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Jack DeJohnette) and Esperanza Spalding earned Grammy Awards, respectively, for Best Large Ensemble, Best Instrumental Album and Best Jazz Vocal Album. McBride, who turned 50 in May, talks about Mingus’ influence on his own spectacular, decades-long career in this issue of JAZZIZ; while Carter, who celebrated his 85th birthday in May with a concert at Carnegie Hall, discusses his philosophies of bass playing throughout a legendary career in the bands of Miles Davis and so many other jazz greats. And Dave Holland, 75 this past October, shares his insights into Mingus and looks back on his own landmark debut recording of 50 years ago, Conference of the Birds. In honor of Mingus, we present an issue that swings the spotlight toward the bass, illuminating different realms of the jazz world with stories about the Jaco-inspired Brian Bromberg and free-jazz practitioner Michael Bisio, as well as exploring jazz’s global reach to bass players from Russia (Boris Kozlov), Israel (Or Bareket) and Canada (Roberto Occhipinti), all of whom bring their unique perspectives to this most American art form. — Michael Fagien