Q (2/96, p.109) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...a mixture of haunting bluesiness, dancing vivacity, and moments of Andalusian heat..."
Personnel: Charles Mingus (acoustic bass, piano); Jerome Richardson (soprano & baritone saxophones, flute); Charlie Mariano (alto saxophone); Dick Hafer (tenor saxophone, flute); Rolf Ericson, Richard Williams (trumpet); Quentin Jackson (trombone); Don Butterfield (tuba); Jaki Byard (piano); Jay Berliner (acoustic guitar); Dannie Richmond (drums).
Reissue producer: Michael Cuscuna.
Recorded in New York on January 20, 1963. Includes liner notes by Charles Mingus and Dr. Edmund Pollock.
Digitally remastered by Erick Labson (MCA Music Media).
Like his idol Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus wrote ambitious, complex works using the jazz ensemble with the exactitude and tonal sensitivity of a classical composer, while keeping the rhythmic vibrancy and improvisational heart of jazz beating fiercely. THE BLACK SAINT AND THE SINNER LADY is the apotheosis of Mingus's vision as a composer, and stands so far beyond the mainstream jazz of the day--in scope and execution--that it deserves its own category. A six-part self-described ballet, the album is packed with themes, motifs, and a polyphony of instrumental voices that weave an expressionistic narrative of intricacy, force, and elegance.
The story of the album is undoubtedly one of struggle; the allegory suggested by the two figures of the title seems to include Mingus's personal demons as well as universal themes of love and identity. There are great shifts in feeling as the 11-piece group enacts tonal contrasts, rhythmic change-ups (often signaled by a lone flamenco guitar), and alternately dissonant and lyrical passages. It is said that Mingus himself considered THE BLACK SAINT his finest achievement. A great masterwork in jazz, it is an essential purchase for anyone interested in the possibilities of the genre.
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