Mingus said of himself "I am half black man, half yellow man, but I claim to be a Negro. I am Charles Mingus, the famed jazz musician--but not famed enough to make a living in America."
"His statement summed up the conflict that plagued this musical genius his entire life: volatility, pain, prescience, and raw rage roiled inside a complex man, composer, bass player, and trombonist who transcended labels and refused to be pigeonholed into a single musical style--and who did not achieve real fame until late in his career.
The documentary is full of well-preserved footage and contains interviews with many Mingus followers like Wynton Marsalis as well as performances by icons Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Gerry Mulligan. The film traverses past the musical legend with insight and information into Mingus's personal life, his civil rights activism, and his final triumph in the music world--just as his body began to deteriorate from Lou Gehrig's disease--to his eventual death in 1979. Mingus left a legacy composed of genius, vulnerability, brilliance, anarchy, and, as one friend noted, "the entire range of human emotion that is reflected in his music." - Paula Nechak