Friday, 16 March 2018

Charles Mingus - The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963)

Simply Mingus the composer and arranger at his absolute pinnacle.  Maybe some aficionados of Let My Children Hear Music, or even Ah Um, would disagree?  For me though, even those don't come close to the perfection of writing, arranging, great grooves and deeply felt soul of this January 1963 recording.  With possibly the first use of overdubs on a jazz record too (anyone know any different?), The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady hit a new level of sonic sophistication that still leaps out of the speakers/headphones today.

Each track title is basically a dance notation, as this album was written as a ballet of sorts, if never performed as such - Solo Dancer, Duet Solo Dancers, Group Dancers etc - and the lengthy subtitles are where the clues are to Mingus' intentions lay for what he was expressing in the music.  So the album opens with, to give it its full title, Track A - Solo Dancer: Stop! Look ! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitey! (or is it Whitney? spellings vary across different pressings).  In this track, as Mingus' psychotherapist Dr Edmund Pollock (yup, he was asked to review the music) notes in the liner, Charlie Mariano's alto sax solo acts as "a voice calling to others and saying "I am alone, please, please join me!" as the orchestral themes swirl around it.

There's a lot going on here, then, but this album shouldn't necessarily be regarded as 'difficult Mingus' - it's really not.  There's achingly gorgeous melody and harmony everywhere, repeated themes, and great grooves.  Only the side-long track that contains parts D through F takes a few goes to properly navigate, but it's a stunning achievement in orchestral jazz that's hugely satisfying once you get used to it.  Little interludes are provided for things like Mingus' piano, and Jay Berliner (who I only knew from Astral Weeks before I heard this album) playing bits of Spanish guitar, to evoke "the period of the Spanish Inquisition, and El Greco's mood of oppressive poverty and death".  Yes, there's weighty themes here, much of it Mingus' reflection of the Black American experience, but there's much joy too.  To finish, and to sum up the album really, here's the full title of the final section: Of Love, Pain, and Promised Revolt, Then Farewell, My Beloved, 'Til It's Freedom Day.



  1. This is, of course, amazing. Cheers.


  2. Thanks! I'm a big Mingus fan, so of course I'll stump for stuff like Changes or The Clown as really great records, but really anything of his is pretty good.

    Oh, and I believe Lennie Tristano's Atlantic albums in the mid 50s were the first to have overdubs. Been a while since I listened, but I remember them being pretty adventurous stuff considering the context.

  3. adding to the above, here's a good (probably the most well known) Tristano overdub example . Bass and drums recorded first, he overdubbed his solo over at half speed.

    and thanks for what you do!

  4. Most insanely amazing Mingus album after Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus!

  5. incredible Mingus record, one of my favorites!

  6. A magnificent album! This is one of my 'desert island' must haves. I urge everyone to listen. Many thanks.


  7. Probably my favorite Mingus record. Great share.