556

Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
Some Mingus albums are like a tremendous three-ring circus. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be struck with awe and delight. The music is absorbing, intense, harrowing, beautiful. Drop everything and run to the show, and don’t expect to get anything else done at the same time: this is about as far from background music as it gets. A great Mingus album is a totally involving experience. This is especially true of one of the only jazz albums to have liner notes written by a clinical psychologist: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Mingus chimes in with a peroration of his own, too, including, "I feel no need to explain any further the music herewith other than to say throw all other records of mine away except maybe one other [unnamed]." Anyone tempted to take this advice should be committed to the observation ward at Bellevue Mingus graced with his presence not long before making this record, but the music itself deservedly holds its creator’s high estimation.

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is a six-part suite (four CD tracks) recorded in 1963. Impulse has given it the 20-bit treatment; few recordings have been more deserving. This suite is a feast of virtuoso performances, shifting moods and textures, and detailed background work by Mingus’ eleven-piece band. Jerome Richardson is heard to great effect on baritone sax near the beginning of the work; he contributes some beautifully supportive flute (with Dick Hafer) and soprano elsewhere. Quentin Jackson’s trombone work is arresting, and the other hornmen (Rolf Ericson and Richard Williams on trumpets, Don Butterfield on tuba, Hafer on tenor sax as well as flute) are excellent. But the pervasive voice of the entire piece is Charlie Mariano on alto sax. Mariano’s playing is wrenchingly emotional and evocative, conveying pathos, fervor, and undying conviction. But as wonderful as Mariano’s work is here, this is very much a group effort. Especially in the last three sections (CD track four) of the piece, this is music of group interaction. Solo voices emerge from the welter and are drawn back into it. Occasionally the ferocity of each voice clamoring with the others reaches such a furious intensity that it would take just one more step for it to reach the world of the medium-sized group free jazz that would be recorded not long after this album: Albert Ayler’s New York Eye and Ear Control, Coltrane’s Ascension, etc. Then in an instant the ensemble stops on a dime with a unison statement executed with high-energy precision. It is an extraordinary thing to hear.

The rest of the ensemble includes Mingus on bass and, briefly, piano; Jaki Byard on piano; Jay Berliner with a marvelous flamenco guitar bit; and the incomparable Dannie Richmond on drums. This is a masterwork that should be part of any jazz collection, except perhaps of those listeners who prefer that music not challenge, inspire, and move them.

| Record Label: Impulse! | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Crowded Solitudes" CD/LP/Track Review Crowded Solitudes
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 6, 2016
Read "Swivel" CD/LP/Track Review Swivel
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 16, 2016
Read "When In Moscow" CD/LP/Track Review When In Moscow
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 12, 2016
Read "Duet" CD/LP/Track Review Duet
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "Reflection" CD/LP/Track Review Reflection
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 14, 2017
Read "Cosmic Nickelodeon" CD/LP/Track Review Cosmic Nickelodeon
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!