Charles Mingus poured the full weight of his experience into everything he played. He was a powerful virtuoso on bass, and as a composer he drew on the whole history of jazz to produce works of trenchant beauty. Above all, he was an artist whose uncompromising spirit invited both controversy and adulation. In the '40s and '50s he worked as bassist for everyone from Kid Ory and Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. Mingus began recording as a leader in the early '50s, and by the end of the decade he was at the peak of his powers as bandleader, arranger, and composer. He incorporated the influence of gospel, blues, and European classical composers into a big-band jazz format, crafting an innovative, completely unique sound. Mingus died of Lou Gehrig's Disease in 1978, but his mark on subsequent musical generations is indelible.