“What did Charlie Parker eat?”

“Eat? Everything. As far as I know.”

“Did he eat a lot?”

“I don’t know. Never seen him eat.”

“You never saw Charlie Parker eat? How come?”

“Never had dinner together.”

“You never did?” I say quite loud, combining real and feigned surprises.

“Lunch or breakfast.”

“I’m surprised to hear that. Do you think anybody ever did?” I stick with it, wagging my hands. “No one ever talks about it, you know. It’s not part of the legend.”

I am looking at Mingus from the corner of my eye. His head is bent down on his chest. His eyes are focused on his buttons, listening.

“If he was mystical and had so many things that he did,” I conclude, “he would probably have things that he ate.”

His head comes up. “I never even saw him eat a sandwich.” He takes a deep breath. “Max said he saw him eat out of a bag one time.”


“Max Roach said he saw him eatin’ out of a bag one time. I don’t know what it was. Somethin’ in a bag.”

— Janet Coleman, Mingus / Mingus


  1. there’s an AMAZING/DISTURBING scene in Miles Davis’ autobiography where the young new-to-NewYork Miles is in a taxi w/ Charlie Parker and a woman… Charlie is performing oral sex on the girl between bites of fried chicken and swigs of gin, while Miles tries to stare out of the window…

  2. My African American Music prof told us that chicken story, hahaha. A Bird eating a bird just doesn’t seem right!

  3. That would be a Bird eating a bird and eating a bird where I’m from.

  4. Oh weird…I thought it was Charlie Parker getting a blowjob while eating chicken and drinking gin? Or so I thought in the Mingus Autobiography?

    There is a great weird documentary in the 60s thats basically Mingus rambling and hanging out with his daughter. He brazenly fires off a shotgun in his loft its great.

  5. Re: Dave Quam’s comment “There is a great weird documentary in the 60s thats basically Mingus rambling and hanging out with his daughter. He brazenly fires off a shotgun in his loft its great.”

    From old Mudd! entry # 279:

    “RZA wipes angel dust off the sampler and stares into his computer monitor. Star simulation screensaver. He thinks about sticky rope. What was that that Mingus was playing with? Maybe it was a bundle of cotton that looked like rope. Whatever it was he could rip it so easily. He was strong… but it was sticky, wasn’t it?

    White wife and a shotgun in the studio. Life isn’t funny, it’s true, and great people get evicted. Can you clean computer screens with Windex? Can you drink Windex? Where’s my damn cellphone? How old would Mingus be if people didn’t die? Maybe it was rope-looking type wax & age wouldn’t matter so much. He’s gone and we can’t ever ask him anything.

           We can only listen around the corners: “

  6. oh nice, never saw that one, good words Jace. is that documentary out on DVD anywhere? What was it called actually? Douglas Ewart showed it to me when I was in his class a few years ago.

  7. According to Wikipedia (take it with a grain of NaCl):

    “Mingus was evicted from his apartment at 5 Great Jones Street in New York City for nonpayment of rent, captured in the film “Mingus: 1968″, by Thomas Reichman, which also features Mingus performing in clubs and, in the apartment, shooting a shotgun, composing at the piano, and discussing love, art, and politics and the music school he had hoped to create.”

  8. that film is great, and strange. As is Beneath The Underdog. but my fav Mingus ‘appearances’ are in other jazz auto/biographies where they tell anecdotes about how crazy he was, like Miles discussing driving across country w/ Mingus . i dont listen to jazz but i LOVE jazz autobiographies.

  9. the liner notes to “black saint and the sinner lady” (an incredible album — best soundtrack for walking thru blizzards EVAR) are great in this regard: they’re written by mingus’s psychotherapist, or so we’re led to believe.

    i never talk about jazz on my blog. but mingus is my favorite composer. of them all.

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