CHARLES MINGUS — The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (review)

CHARLES MINGUS — The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady album cover Album · 1963 · Progressive Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
dreadpirateroberts
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.
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