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Sue Mingus and Revenge Records

The New York Times Magazine, October 27, 1996

photo of Sue Mingus

The first time Sue Mingus got caught stealing bootleg recordings of her late husband, the legendary jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus, was in 1991. As she strode out of Paris’s largest record store, guards pounced and confiscated three Mingus CD’s she carried in plain view. The store manager started dialing the cops; Mingus suggested he also call Parisian newspapers, TV and Tempo, the premier French jazz magazine, so she could inform everbody that the store was selling pirated jazz. ”When he heard that,” says Mingus with satisfaction, ”he just glared and left the room.”

Now Mingus has taken her crusade a step further by creating Revenge Records, an independent label dedicated to reissuing the best of the bootlegged Mingus recordings that she has liberated over the past 20 years. The Revenge releases are only part of a full-scale Mingus revival that’s been gaining momentum since his death in 1979. (A ”Mostly Mingus” festival is scheduled for New York in 1997.) Revenge Records’ first release — suitably titled ”Revenge!” — is taken from a series of live concerts Mingus recorded with the saxophonist Eric Dolphy in 1964. Sue Mingus plans to keep them coming. ”In most record stores,” she says, ”the ratio between stolen and legitimate Mingus recordings is 3 to 1. Our plan is to go after the bootleggers, undersell them and put them out of business.”