MINGUS is an excellent portrait of this great bassist/composer and some of the hard times that came his way. The film features a superb MINGUS in action at a nightclub near Boston ("All the Things You Are," "Secret Love," "Take the A Train"), where he is joined by DANNIE RICHMOND, WALTER BISHOP, JOHN GILMORE and CHARLES McPHERSON; as well as scenes of him conducting his big band, composing, singing and reciting his own poetry.
"Although there are performances, most of this black-and-white film is harrowing cinema verite of the great composer and jazz bassist in his New York loft, surrounded by the clutter of his life and art, waiting for the police to evict him. During the wait, Reichman tossed out a few questions, and even in his distraction, Mingus spoke passionately, and at length, about politics, family, education, 'sex as a source of survival,' the politics and consequences of racism. Mingus is wry, bitter, resigned, yet always proud.. The film succeeds mostly because of Reichman's supple juxtaposition of joy (the bassist's sweet interaction with his five-year-old daughter) and great pain. There is a defiance that gives way to tears -- Mingus' and ours -- when the Department of Sanitation coldly trucks away his possessions, including his beloved bass, to temporary storage, and again when Mingus is arrested after hypodermic needles are found in the apartment (a reporter tells Mingus not to worry, he's getting 'a million dollars in publicity'). If this film were ever colorized, it would be all blues." -- Richard Harrington, WASHINGTON POST