Mr. Mingus thinks this is his best record. It may very well be his best to date for his present stage of development as other records were in the past. It must be emphasized that Mr. Mingus is not yet complete. He is still in a process of change and personal development. Hopefully the integration in society will keep pace with his. One must continue to expect more suprises from him.
Edmund Pollock, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist1
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Charles Mingus
- 1. Track A - Solo Dancer 6:20
- Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney
- 2. Track B - Duet Solo Dancers 6:25
- Hearts' Beat and Shades in Physical Embraces
- 3. Track C - Group Dancers 7:00
- (Soul Fusion) Freewoman and Oh, This Freedom's Slave Cries
- 4. Mode D - Trio and Group Dancers 17:52
- Stop! Look! And Sing Songs of Revolutions!
- Mode E - Single Solos and Group Dance
- Saint and Sinner Join in Merriment on Battle Front
- Mode F - Group and Solo Dance
- Of Love, Pain, and Passioned Revolt, the Farewell,
My Beloved, 'til It's Freedom Day
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady was recorded on January 20, 1963 in New York and released later that year on Impulse! records. It was re-released, again on Impulse!, in 1995. Performing on the album was Rolf Ericson and Richard Williams on trumpets, Quentin Jackson on trombone, Don Butterfield on tuba, Jerome Richardson on soprano and baritone saxes as well as flute, Dick Hafer on tenor sax and flute, Charles Mariano on alto sax, Jaki Byard on piano, Jay Berliner on guitar, Charles Mingus on bass and piano and Dannie Richmond on drums.
The liner notes are of particular note. For one, Mingus asked his psychologist to write a review of the music and included the commentary in the liner notes. Secondly, it includes a massive screed by Mingus about music critics, musical imitation and what he thought was good. The topics he wrote about are rather telling, giving a quick glimpse into what was bothering him professionally at the time. He also explains how the baritone, tenor and alto saxaphones were set up during the recording, with the tenor further back to give the illusion at certain times of their being more than three saxophone players.
Charles Mingus thought that The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady was the best record he had recorded up to that point and I'm not one to argue. The album doesn't swing and grove as much as most of Mingus's work, but the whole album stands as a single soulful composition.
Track A is a mournful sounding piece that evokes a mood with the color and instrumentation of the song. In the first bit of the song, the trombone repeats a gravelly bleating while the rest of the horns keep a slow foundation under it. Gradually, the alto sax takes over the lead role and continues with the lonesome theme set up for it. The song builds in intensity, changes time signatures and drops off with a few well placed notes on the piano.
Track B starts off with a suggestive piano intro that leads to a smooth dance duet. The mellow section comes to an end and an almost call and response-style section starts, with the reed and brass instruments seeming to talk back and forth to each other. The intensity builds to almost desperate levels until it falls to a single lonely muted horn and drums. After a dramatic pause, more of the band breaks in and the song resolves back into the original duet melody.
Track C begins with a piano solo played by Mingus himself, originally played to show Jaki Byard how he wanted it done. It continues on with occasional interjections from other instruments. As the piano solo wraps up, a lyrical sounding flute melody picks up with whimsical accompaniment. Another piano solo passes, suggesting things to come and the song picks up in earnest. We are then introduced to the spanish guitar and spanish-influenced horn work. The style bleeds across into the brooding composition that follows. The initial flute melody is imitated and improvised upon by the saxaphones and given a much more desperate and wailing tone.
The last track builds off of the mood, tone and themes set up in the previous three. The spanish guitar returns and is given an incredibly compelling solo in Mode D. The flute melody from Track C returns and plays a prominent role once again in Mode E along side brooding piano work. The track as a whole attempts to rework the first three tracks into a single piece and does a commendable job at it.
I would be hard pressed to find an album by Mingus that says more emotionally than this one. Most of Mingus's music is laden with undertones of struggle or political messages but this album seems to take Mingus's feelings of despair and anger regarding racism and freedom and expand them to epic proportions. The album name and the track subtitles set it up and the music reinforces the idea.
I wouldn't call this Mingus's most accessable work but it is certainly one of his most meaningful and emotional works. It requires much more attention and effort to appreciate its depth and complexity if only because of its length. At fourty minutes long it requires a much more sustained effort than most of his other individual compositions, but give it all the effort it demands. It's well worth it.
1: Edmund Pollock was Mingus's psychologist. He wrote part of the liner notes for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, which is where the quote is from.
2: I should probably note here that my foundation in music theory is weak and that these should be taken as my impressions from listening to the album rather than any sort of definative guide.