I Wanna Taranna Pt. 19: Sonic Boom #2 Charles Mingus – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
A no-brainer purchase, this used copy finds a very welcome home in my collection.
Now, do I really need to tell you about Mingus? No, probably not. Suffice it to say this record is absolute fucking genius. I played it twice through, one time right after the other, and when I was done I was six inches taller and I could spit forty feet. True story.*
If you’re a details-oriented person, here ya go: this album “consists of a single continuous composition – partially written as a ballet – divided into four tracks and six movements.” (wiki). Cool! Further: “The album was recorded on January 20, 1963 by an eleven-piece band. Mingus has called the album’s orchestral style “ethnic folk-dance music”. Mingus’s perfectionism led to extensive use of studio overdubbing techniques. The album features liner notes written by Mingus and his then-psychotherapist, Edmund Pollock. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is often characterized by jazz and music critics as one of Mingus’s two major masterworks (the other being Mingus Ah Um) and has frequently ranked highly on lists of the best albums of all time.”
Simply put, the fact that I am adding it to my collection only now, despite having heard other folks’ copies over the years, is so remiss that I have already turned in my Cool Cat Card and forfeited any and all street cred earned over years of jazz listening.
To coninue the album’s awesomeness, all tracks have subtitles. Check it out:
|1.||“Track A – Solo Dancer”||“Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!”||6:39|
|2.||“Track B – Duet Solo Dancers”||“Hearts’ Beat and Shades in Physical Embraces”||6:45|
|3.||“Track C – Group Dancers”||“(Soul Fusion) Freewoman and Oh, This Freedom’s Slave Cries”||7:22|
|4.||“Mode D – Trio and Group Dancers”
“Mode E – Single Solos and Group Dance”
“Mode F – Group and Solo Dance”
|“Stop! Look! And Sing Songs of Revolutions!”
“Saint and Sinner Join in Merriment on Battle Front”
“Of Love, Pain, and Passioned Revolt, then Farewell, My Beloved, ’til It’s Freedom Day”
Everything about this album loudly proclaims true creativity, absolute mastery, unabashed audacity, and pure musical athleticism. It’s visceral, punchy, sometimes crazy, and always gorgeous.
Mingus. Masterpiece. GO!
* Truth of this true story technically unverified but still, why ruin the magic when something sounds this cool, right?
I first need to begin with huge thanks AGAIN to the mighty Marshall from Free City Sounds. He sent me this LP, and when it arrived in the mail I about fell over. Blown. Away. THANK YOU SIR!
And what a gift. Here is Mingus in 1957 (released in 1962). With him are Clarence Shaw (trumpet), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Shafi Hadi (alto and tenor sax), Bill Triglia (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums), Ysabel Morel (vocals, castanets), Frankie Dunlop (percussion), and Lonne Elder (vocals).
Some things I noticed:
As I stared lovingly at the cover art, was ‘Charlie’ Mingus, not ‘Charles.’ Says Wiki: “Mingus hated all nicknames derived from Charles (“Don’t call me Charlie; that’s not a man’s name, that’s a name for a horse”).
This edition is 180g Pure Virgin Vinyl (presumably made with 180 virgins!). It is “audiophile grade,” has deluxe inner sleeves, and was a one-pressing limited collector’s edition. Drooling yet? Me too!
How many times it states, on the cover and (mainly) in the liner notes, that this was the album that Mingus felt was his best work. It’s mentioned A LOT.
And now, before I attempt to write about this, I offer you a…
I am (likely) completely) under-qualified to write about this album. More knowledgeable people than me have written about it for decades, so if you want a real review, the internet is the place for you.
Still with me? Let’s go!
Dizzy Moods shifts a lot, bouncing from one mood to another. The players are getting a workout on track one! Of course, they nail it with aplomb.
Ysabel’s Table Dance is barely-restrained mayhem, that must’ve been one helluva dance! It becomes a sweet swing groove that fills me with so much bliss. Shafi Hadi’s sax line is killer… but wait, Ysabel’s crazy dance returns! And then we wind down beautifully, then we swing a while… and Ysabel sighs and we know we’re there. Whew. What a track!
Also, I have to assume that the cover photo is of Ysabel (or a lady meant to represent her), smoking her cigarette to calm herself following that performance and showing some lovely leg.
Slippers is a bonus track here, and it’s a full on latin club dance track explosion. Gorgeousness spilling out of the club into the warm city street… hot as hell! That trumpet solo absolutely slays.
Tijuana Gift Shop is a quick slinky bop jazz excursion that cannot help but put a smile on your face. All the instruments take turns in the spotlight, but nothing’s overbearing, nothing’s out of place, and everything just swings along perfectly. By the trumpet walks us out, you’re so into the groove you’re sad it’s ending so soon! I would place this as one of my favourite tracks of the form.
Los Mariachis is another sweet jazz track until the trumpet leads the shift into a happy dance middle section. Its voice is almost human, eloquent and joyful. We return to the swing and a rollicking trombone. We shift again, this time a bluesy bottom end as the sax wails above. Then we ramp up the joyful again, this time the piano taking the lead, before the main swing line comes back briefly. Then we lift off into wailing trumpet and crescendo… then back again to bluesy and gentle…
Duke Ellington’s Flamingo is a gorgeous slow dance with a trumpet line I knew I recognized – I’ve heard Wynton Marsalis play a faster version of it on his amazing Standard Time Vol. 3: The Resolution Of Romance album. Here we’re in a slower mood, but the trumpet still reigns supreme. This performance is stellar!
Perfectly written and conceived, this is vital, passionate playing. It’s exciting as hell, smooth jazz meets experimental forays, all tied together with wonderful elements from south of the border. I love Mingus, and I absolutely fell in love with the energy, style, and virtuosity of this album.
I cannot thank Marshall of Free City Sounds enough for this wonderful record. COMMUNITY!