Charles Mingus
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady



by Hep Kat USER (124 Reviews)
June 2nd, 2006 | 641 replies

Release Date: 1963 | Tracklist

How does one define an emotion? Let's narrow the field a little: how does one define an emotion in musical terms? Some might say with exceptional lyrical composition. Some may say with outstandingly technical instrumentation. Even more might state that the only true answer to this quandary is the question itself: you define emotion in music through sheer emotional willpower. Now then, allow me the pleasure of another question: which artists have reached such a plateau? Sure, you could mention the greatest, most legendary artists of each and every musical genre. No one will frown upon such an opinion, as it is as valid as any other. However, if I was asked this either of these questions, I would respond, essentially with the question itself for the former of the two; I would respond, however, with one artist primarily above all else for the latter question: Charles Mingus. Upon giving said response, I would cite Mingus' 1963 masterpiece The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.

Charles Mingus would be a man who many would consider to be a true artist. As 20th century musicians go, Mingus is widely considered to be among the greatest composers of his time. In addition to this, his triumphs as an orchestrator and musical technician catapult him into the upper echelons of, dare I say, legendary status? Yes, I do dare to say just that: Charles Mingus is a legend. There is no greater example of this than The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Written originally as a ballet, this album draws inspiration from everything (and everyone) from Duke Ellington to Latin-based musical resources, creating a unique, new orchestral style that Mingus dubbed "ethnic folk-dance music." The overall work on the album is rich and multi-tiered, mostly due to Mingus' sense of perfectionism, which led to the extensive use of studio overdubbing (the first time such a technique would be used on an album). The result is an engrossing, truly compelling harmonious experience, that seems to capture every spectrum of the human emotional palette; from joy, to excitement, to anger, and sadness.

The entire piece consists of a single six-part suite performed by an eleven-piece band. Each movement of every song overflows with a certain vibe that conveys exactly the point that it is intended to. Since a wide variety of instruments are featured on The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, the sound meshes together with a certain "viscosity of virtuosity." Everything from guitar solos or brass solos to free-form jazz psychodrama, accentuate the ever-altering, and conceptual nuances of the album's message. And what a message it is. While The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is instrumental, it's also one of the most well-perceived embodiments of music being able to speak without words. The perfection of this album can go without saying as well; meaning you need to listen.

So, specifically, what will you be listening to? The four songs on the album are (as previously mentioned) broken into eleven overall movements. Beginning with "Track A- Solo Dancer" and concluding with the final movement of "Mode D- Trio and Group Dancers" appropriately titled "Of Love, Pain, and Passioned Revolt, then Farewell, My Beloved, 'til It's Freedom Day," The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady shifts continuously through tempo changes and feeling changes as your mood may reflect whilst indulging within the album. It's extremely difficult to put into words just how fantastic this record is. It's simply that incredible.

While this review may seem concise (ridiculously so, at that), I hope you, dear reader, will sympathize with this humble reviewer's point of view: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is an experience. Therefore, no amount of words I could ever write will truly relate the perfection of said experience. I highly urge anyone who skims over this review to give this album a look. If you wish to hear the point where Charles Mingus finally transcended his original roots as a simple jazz bassist, and became something much more, then this is the record for you. However, if you simply wish to delve into some amazing music, you'll still find yourself well-served with this album. I suppose this is what you might colloquially deign to be a "win/win" situation.

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user ratings (1110)

Comments:Add a Comment 
June 2nd 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

You seem to review a lot of interesting albums that I haven't heard of. I'll try and check them out, good job. I liked the intro, it grabs your attention. You don't say much about the actual sound of the album, aside from the fact that it is emotional. Still a great review though, I really like your style.

June 2nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

I love this album and, yeah, it is hard to really describe, I know what you mean.

This is my favorite Mingus by far ... and the liner notes, wow!

And I know how frustrating it can be when you don't get comments because people

haven't heard of your album, so I'll try to spam as much as possible. Just for you,

buddy!This Message Edited On 06.02.06

June 3rd 2006


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Yes, this album is amazing. One of my favourite jazz albums, though, it actually is far more than jazz as you noted.

I love how the main themes of this album keep returning in the different songs and how they yet don't give you a feel as if they didn't have enough material to fill the album. A classic for sure.

Robert Crumb
June 4th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

Good work with this. I'm not sure this is my favorite Mingus album, but it's undeniably awesome. When I listen to it, I listen to it on repeat.

June 4th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

This is a great album.

One of my favorite things about Mingus, and possibly the thing about his compositional style that I admire the most, is his ability to make very dense, chaotic music that feels crowded, but still pull it off with beauty. So much of his music sounds at times like conversation at a happening party. It's the whole concept of controlled chaos, which Mingus embodies, and it's applied with great attention to natural tension and release.

So often I'm impressed by those who can "say a lot with a little" in muisc. But there's something really amazing, too, about saying something completely simple and natural in a complex way.

June 17th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

My favorite album by Mingus, easily in my top ten ever. Also, one of the few pieces of music that I find myself dancing too nearly every time I listen to (may sound a bit weird, but this record just gets me going :lol: ). Totally unique, I've never heard anything like it (Pithecanthropus Erectus comes kinda close, but is still a ways away from being the same kind of record, if you ask me).

August 26th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

I just listened to this for the first time. It's spectacular.

September 7th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

This has sparked a real interest in jazz for me. I've always casually liked the genre, but never been as enamored with a jazz album as I've been with this one. I've listened to it almost every day since the first time I heard it. It might be a 5 from me.This Message Edited On 09.10.06

July 26th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

This album has such a great swagger and majesty to it

August 17th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

i think i need to get this album cuz i just got Let My Children Hear Music and its amazing stuff. Mingus is great

August 20th 2007


great review, I'm listening to this right now and I really like it

Maccalenni Cheese
August 27th 2007


Album Rating: 5.0

Brilliant album. Great arrangements and feeling of unity. Very expressive and never gets boring.This Message Edited On 08.27.07

August 22nd 2008


Album Rating: 5.0

a well-deserved #1 for the all-time sputnik charts. and a great review.

Mingus is surely one of my favourite musicians.

September 23rd 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

Charles Mingus PWNS

October 6th 2008


Album Rating: 3.0

The review really doesn't tell me much about how it sounds. Moods are debatable, but you could elaborate on the musicality of it all.

June 15th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

One of my favourites.

If you like this guy check out some Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.. Mind blowing stuff.

September 22nd 2009


This is fantastich

Shadowed Reflection
January 10th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

nothing short of an absolute classic. so much effort was put into this album and none of it is lost, a true masterpiece from an artist who had several of them.

February 26th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

da bombz

June 13th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

Easily my favorite jazz album.

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