Jan 20, 2013
"I feel no need to explain any further the music herewith other than to say throw all other records of mine away except maybe one other [unnamed]" – Charles Mingus on The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.
Fifty years ago today, Charles Mingus gathered eleven musicians into a New York studio and created one of his most acclaimed albums. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, was the the first of three albums he would record for Impulse Records in the mid-Sixties.
The musicians who gathered for the sessions were Mingus (double bass, piano), 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) and Dannie Richmond (drums). The end results were significantly overdubbed by the always demanding Mingus before it was ready to go.
The finished album consists of a single continuous composition—partially written as a ballet—divided into four tracks and six movements. Each track title – such as “Track B – Duet Solo Dancers”- had a subtitle. In the case of that track, it was "Hearts' Beat and Shades in Physical Embraces."
Piero Scaruffi nicely summed up the Black Saint listening experience:
…it was, by definition, an exercise in colors: Mingus juxtaposed groups of instruments to maximize the contrast of tones, while using a shifting dynamic to lure ever-changing textures out of that jarring counterpoint. The resulting music was highly emotional, bordering on neurotic, merging the ancestral frustration of black slaves with the modern alienation of the urban middle class. The sense of universal tragedy was increased by the facts that instruments were clearly simulating human voices, whether the joyful singing of Mariano's sax or the sorrowful murmur of trumpet and trombone or the ghostly howls of tuba and baritone sax.