The brutal truth is that Columbia didn’t really know how to handle these artists even when they were under contract. Sure, they had released Mingus’s seminal Mingus Ah Um album in 1959, but jazz fans only later learned how much excellent music from the bassist the label kept unreleased at the time. Mingus was better served in the 1960s by Atlantic and Impulse, and when he returned to Columbia in the early 1970s, he was there for only the briefest interval before getting dropped. And how ironic that his 1972 Columbia album Let My Children Hear Music featured the composition “The Chill of Death,” an unsettling work that the same label had recorded back in the 1940s, and never released. It was almost as if Mingus were pranking the label that had left so much of his choicest work on the shelf—forcing them to record it all over again decades later.
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