Universal Music Group releases a stunning re-mastered vinyl of a Charles Mingus landmark album.
Charles Mingus – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady – Impulse Records A-35 (1963)/Universal Music Group B0033602-01 (2021) Acoustic Sound Series 180-gram stereo vinyl, 39:25 *****:
(Charles Mingus – double bass, piano; Jerome Richardson – soprano saxophone; baritone saxophone, flute; Charles 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 – classical guitar; Dannie Richmond – drums; Bob Hammer – arrangements)
It is not unusual to hear Charles Mingus chronicled as one of the greatest jazz composers and band leaders in history. The double bassist and pianist was an integral force in the development of complex improvisational jazz, intermingling hard bop, third stream, free jazz and classical. He collaborated with fellow icons including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Over his career at Atlantic and Impulse, his prodigious output included titles like Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), Mingus Ah Um (1959) and The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963). These releases are considered among the finest in jazz lore with Giant Steps, Time Out and Kind Of Blue. He remained a potent force in music, and worked with Joni Mitchell (on her appropriately titled album, Mingus) at the time of his death.
Universal Music Group has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of The Black Sinner And The Saint Lady as part of the Acoustic Sounds Series. The compositional scope and instrumental range of this stellar 11-piece ensemble is compelling. Conceived as a single piece divided into six movements, Mingus describes it as ethnic folk dance music, with motifs that draw from jazz, classical, African and Spanish themes. It is a challenging album to deconstruct song-by-song. There is a unique polyrhythmic, hypnotic resonance. The first track of this “aural ballet” “Solo Dancer” kicks off with an accelerated march-time drum with a chorus of horns and reeds creating a sultry atmosphere. As the saxophone and trumpet add texture to the driving tempo, soprano saxophone (countered by saucy horns) creates an emotional crescendo. The second part of the suite (“Duet Solo Dancers”) begins with an ethereal piano run and is joined by the full orchestra. At the 2:10 mark, there is a pulsating, gritty interlude that grows with ferocity and features underlying deep brass, and crisp, almost shrill trumpet and trombone notes that push tonal boundaries. The first part of the album’s third song, ”Group Dancers” concludes Side A. Again, the counterpoint of foreboding piano and horn accents leads to a sinewy melodic flow. Mingus’ adroit double bass guides the movement seamlessly. A certain highlight is the flamenco guitar run by Jay Berliner which leads to a tempo-shifting almost bebop modulation. Then classical piano exchanges with sophisticated fully orchestrated punctuation is sustained by by fierce saxophone and trumpet.
On Side B, “Trio And Group Dancers” is the epitome of inspired arrangement and grandiose “street” resonance, thanks to trumpet and sax, with a rapidly increasing tempo. This performance showcases the gravitas of the expanded instrumental lineup. It is multi-faceted and varies time signatures (especially a 3/4 shift). One of the highlights is Mingus’ dramatic piano solo. The audacious vision of this music puts Mingus in the rarefied air of legends like Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Gil Evans, Bob Brookmeyer and Quincy Jones. The opus morphs into two other complex structures (“Single Solos And Group Dance”/“Group And Solo Dance”) that reprise the flamenco guitar against an alto saxophone. When the band explodes, there is a wild tapestry of Latin and African-infused rhythms, and a marimba that adds another musical element. There is a return to the central melody, as the trombone, horns and reeds provide slow-burning intensity. Then the band shifts from frenetic energy to bluesy articulation with a lone saxophone at the conclusion.
The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady is among the greatest albums in the annals of jazz. The instrumental gravitas and orchestral complexity both challenge and reward the listener. It is representative of the huge presence of Charles Mingus in what many consider to be the most creative and prolific jazz era. The re-mastered vinyl sounds vibrant. Even with the layers of instrumentation, the mix is crisp, balanced and never dense. This 180-gram pressing (QRP) is excellent and the unprecedented, candid liner notes are more than intriguing.
Side A: Solo Dancer (Stop! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!); Duet Solo Dancers (Heart’s Beat And Shades In Physical Embraces; Group Dancers (Soul Fusion/Freewoman And Oh This Freedom’s Slave Cries
Side B: Trio And Group Dancers (Stop! Look! And Sing Songs Of Revolution; Single Solos And Group Dance (Saint And Sinner John In Merriment On Battle Front); Group And Solo Dance (Of Love, Pain, And Passioned Revolt, Then Farewell, My Beloved ‘till It’s Freedom Day).
For more information, please visit vendor Acoustic Sounds website: