Mingus never believed that his ground-breaking composition would be performed while he lived – hence his title. He stated that he had written it “for my tombstone.” If it was an epitaph, it could scarcely have been a better one, for all that it was more than a decade since his death.
The manuscript was only found after his death, when Mingus’ works were being catalogued. In this, its first performance, the concert was produced by Sue Graham Mingus, his widow, and played by a 30-piece orchestra conducted by Gunther Schuller. Schuller later stated that Epitaph was “among the most important, prophetic, creative statement in the history of jazz,” and The New Yorker wrote that Epitaph represents the first advance in jazz composition since Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown, and Beige which was written in 1943.
Woke Up This Morning – Alabama 3