The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

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CHARLES MINGUS - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady cover
4.88 | 50 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1963

Filed under Post Bop


A1 Solo Dancer (Stop! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!) 6:20
A2 Duet Solo Dancers (Heart's Beat And Shades In Physical Embraces) 6:25
A3 Group Dancers ([Soul Fusion] Freewoman And Oh This Freedom's Slave Cries) 7:00
Side 2 (17:52)
B1 Trio And Group Dancers (Stop! Look! And Sing Songs Of Revolutions!)
B2 Single Solos And Group Dance (Saint And Sinner Join In Merriment On Bottle Front)
B3 Group And Solo Dance (Of Love, Pain, And Passioned Revolt, Then Farewell, My Beloved, 'til It's Freedom Day)

Total Time: 39:26


– Charles Mingus / bass, piano, composer
– Jerome Richardson / soprano and baritone saxophone, flute
– Charlie Mariano / alto saxophone
– Dick Hafer / tenor saxophone, flute
– Rolf Ericson / trumpet
– Richard Williams / trumpet
– Quentin Jackson / trombone
– Don Butterfield / tuba, contrabass trombone
– Jaki Byard / piano
– Jay Berliner / acoustic guitar
– Dannie Richmond / drums

About this release

Impulse! ‎– AS-35 (US)

Recorded January 20, 1963. The tracks on side B are played continuously

Thanks to snobb, dreadpirateroberts for the updates

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Specialists/collaborators reviews

A triumph. For my money this is one of the most thrilling jazz albums recorded, a post-bop miracle, with a big band feel and a most welcome dose of film noir. More, it’s unashamedly romantic and when it doesn’t evoke the score to a 1940s detective film it’s like a drunken ballet or a raucous dance hall explosion.

Wonderfully, the pieces have been arranged in such a way that transitions between what sound like a quartet and a big band, are handled not just with attention to space, but with an eye to the overall mood of a piece – ‘The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady’ is emotive and complex without being cold, part of why it’s an ‘all-time’ album.

Mingus plays bass and some piano on his compositions, but I mostly think of him as directing traffic from behind his double bass, urging the soloists to weave in and out of the rhythm (the saxes especially well), the drums to thump and the trumpet to talk. At other times, I find my ear drawn to the piano, it provides a great tonal contrast within the movements and motifs throughout (as does the flute.) But whether it’s Richardson and Butterfield chiming in with all those lower-register notes, the more wailing moments from the rest of the brass or the splashing, flailing cymbals from Richmond – it’s the effect of the whole that pleases me most. It’s a very together sounding record, despite all the overdubbing that Mingus is said to have required.

After I’ve claimed that this album is a ‘post-bop miracle’ there’s not much else to say really, even Mingus suggested that the listener could turf his other albums in place of this one, and of course you cannot, but if an artist had to stand by just one release, this would be a great one to hold up.

Members reviews

siLLy puPPy
Simply one of the greatest recordings ever released. CHARLES MINGUS took on the unsurmountable task of putting out an album that was structured like one long track that contained four suites. On these suites he utilizes an 11-piece big band and creates the perfect fusion of classical music mixed with jazz and ethnic traditional music. Throughout this epic journey we encounter the strange intersections of big band jazz and Spanish guitar, gypsy dance themes and brilliant piano runs. This album doesn't give you one chance to be bored in it 39:26 running time.

With this much going on you can only imagine the difficulties of putting something like this together in the early 60s but MINGUS was a perfectionist and engaged in painstaking overdubbing techniques to ensure everything came out just as he wanted it. The result is one of the most celebrated recordings in human history which not only pulls every musical heart-string in its breadth of emotional content but fulfills the highest potential of the possibilities of what a big band can accomplish. MINGUS would go on to create even more progressive big band albums but none of them would quite outdo what he so magically wove together so perfectly as on this one. The absolute best of the best here.
An avant-big band masterpiece, Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady comprises a series of tracks described as "dances", and it certainly feels as though the music is dancing - with movements ranging from reeling, stumbling drunkenness to dirty, low-down grinding to hysterical spasms of joy and everything in between. With a particularly strong brass section and intriguing compositions, Mingus creates an impression of apparent chaos which on close listens reveal that everything is in fact carefully and regularly orchestrated and composed. To my mind, it sets a clear precedent for a range of experimental music to follow - in particular, Frank Zappa would visit territory much like this in the later days of the first Mothers of Invention lineup, as on albums like Burnt Weeny Sandwich.
Sean Trane
If you must own only one Mingus album, BS&TLS is the one. Clearly Mingus had never reached such a level (especially over a full album’s length), and rarely will he ever after that, despite some mega-ambitious projects like Let The Children Hear Music or his career-crowning achievement Epitaph. Oddly enough, Mingus achieved ths monster without having his usual suspects, except for drummer Richmond, but it’s probably this change of background that pushed Mingus to the extreme. To this writer, it is little wonder this album had to appear on the Impulse! Catalogue and that only that label could’ve given him the push he needed, despite (or in spite) of the Thiele/Van Gelder link. Indeed, names like Mariano, Byard, Berliner bring the back-up to a whole different level of ballgame (didn’t say better), which in turned changed the ballpark; no disrespect for the usual Mingus boys, quite on the contrary.

Written as whole piece, this multi-movement suite 37-mins composition is one of the rare example of jazz composition that I’d qualify as an epic, in the progressive sense of the term, with plenty of time and key changes, loads of dramatics, theme reprises and everything else a real music lover could ever wish for. All of these ingredients bring many goose-bumps, spine-chills and jaw-drops, as it all unravels before you still nowadays… But just imagine the shock of those jazz mainstream listeners, expecting another Ah Um, or something like the first Miles Quintet. Indeed, this shock was probably as big as it would be for the astounding A Love Supreme, but also later with Bitches Brew…. The evil or traitor’s trilogy for 40’s & 50’s jazz-purists cause, if you want. Many hard boppers thought that go innovative, you had to approach the speed of sound, but both Trane and Mingus showed that you can be resolutely mid-paced (and even slow-paced) to be groundbreaking and that is pure songwriting Mingus genius at work here, because the overall soundscapes are still quite a bit more melodic and catchy (almost mainstream-y) than most of the hard bop stuff produced before and since.

The Black Saint’s world ranges from Satie or Rachmaninov sketches (piano opening the Group Dancer movement) to relatively dark and moody moods (almost dangerous, the brass near-chaotic mayhem early in Mode D), sprinkles of flamenco (glimpse of Ysabel’s Table Dance, I guess ;o)) brooding bowed contrabass, wailing spell-binding semi-gypsy-jazz horns, but that never-ending riff being the cornstarch of the recipe. All of these ingredients flow and merge effortlessly as one whole insoluble body, sometimes getting close to Screaming Jay Hawkins’ musical madness.

The Impulse! remaster doesn’t have any bonus tracks and to be honest, not only does it not need any, but I doubt that you could find much to actually match that Sinning Lady, if only maybe a version of Meditation. Sooooooo, if you must own only one Mingus album, BS&TLS is the one.


"The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady" is a true milestone of music in general.

Charles Mingus is probably the most known double bass player in jazz music. The reason? Sure, his talent can be one, but probably the biggest contribution to this fame is “Black Saint”, one of the most important albums of jazz music. After listening to this, my love for jazz just got bigger.

At the time, 1963, when the album was released, it was considered pretty avant-garde and innovating what Mingus did in this album: Musically, it can be considered as a sort of Avant-Garde Jazz, but with a lot of Post Bop and especially a lot of “big Band”, meaning that they were used tons of instruments, and over ten musicians where playing. The result is a very interesting style of music, which not only has many labels, but also has many different moods; many times the music can be tense, because of some suspended and slow melodies here and there, but also fun and enjoyable in other moments. There is no doubt though, that “Black Saint” is a very atmospheric jazz album, giving those typical vibes of an old movie from the 40’s (natural reference to the Post Bop style).

The album is divided in four tracks, and in total they are six movements, usually one per track with the exception of the last song, which embraces three movements. These six movements have a lot of movements in common, in particular the main rhythm that can be heard in the first couple of minutes of the first movement. Of course there are also tons of changes between the songs: while the first song is very attached to the Post Bop side, the following track sounds more Avant-Garde, even because the song finds its skeleton in the piano, and every other instrument moves around it. The third track has still some Avant-Garde moments, and very unique ones, like the Spanish guitar, making this probably the prettiest song off the album. The last track is an eighteen-minute monster, divided like I said in the last three movements; these flow perfectly one into another, without any boring moments. The album with this closes perfectly.

“The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” is an album that is a must for jazz listeners, a true milestone not only for the genre but also of music in general. Outstanding.
A curious case of spaghetti-western avant- post- be-bop, Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady offers the listener some insight into the troubled mind of a genius. At the helm of an eleven piece band, Mingus' compositional skills come alive. The most beautiful themes on the album find themselves repeated only a perfect number of times, and the powerful baritone saxophone and contrabass trombone drive the music throughout.

An absolutely essential jazz masterpiece, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is without a doubt among the greatest works ever made by anybody. Highly recommended to anybody with the slightest inclination to open-mindedness.

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