Mingus seemed to be enjoying himself and we played an entire set. The most important night of my musical life, because I no longer had to think of myself as an impostor. If Charles Mingus got up to play with me, I must have been doing something right. I was no genius, but I was a musician. He had freed me, in a way. And there was a lesson in it, too. You don't have to be great to play jazz. It's okay if you're not great—good, strong, interesting music can be created by even a mediocre instrumentalist.
A year or so later, in another club, Mingus and I split a bottle of his favorite Pouilly-Fuissé after he had, once again, sat in with me. "What's going on, Charlie? You're the best bassist in the world and I'm a putzer."
"You are," he said expansively, "an authentic primitive. That is true." He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "But you swing."
"Dogs Bark, But The Caravan Rolls On," Frank Conroy
[Chicago Avenue east of Damen Avenue]
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