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Pithecanthropus Erectus is a 1956 album by jazz composer and bassist Charles Mingus. Mingus noted that this was the first album where he taught arrangements to his musicians by ear in lieu of writing everything down.[1]


According to Mingus' liner notes, the title song is a ten-minute tone poem, depicting the rise of man from his hominid roots (Pithecanthropus erectus) to an eventual downfall due to "his own failure to realize the inevitable emancipation of those he sought to enslave, and his greed in attempting to stand on a false security." The song's title translates into "Upright Ape-Man", which holds a dual meaning with "upright" referring to Mingus' bass.


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The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave it a maximum four-star rating and added it to its core collection, describing it as "One of the truly great modern jazz albums".[2] In the same review, "the all-in ensemble work" in parts of the first track, "Pithecanthropus Erectus", is described as being "absolutely crucial to the development of free collective improvisation in the following decade".

Track listingEdit

All tracks composed by Charles Mingus except where noted.

  1. "Pithecanthropus Erectus" – 10:36
  2. "A Foggy Day" – 7:50 (George Gershwin)
  3. "Profile of Jackie" – 3:11
  4. "Love Chant" – 14:59




  • Tom Dowd – recording engineering
  • Hal Lustig – recording engineering


  1. Huey, Steve. "Pithecanthropus Erectus - Charles Mingus | AllMusic". Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  2. Cook, Richard & Morton, Brian (2008) The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, p. 1001. Penguin.

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