I must admit that there are a fair few composers in jazz that I would put at the top of my list before Charles Mingus, (think Ellington, Nichols, Monk, Shorter, Hill, etc) yet there cannot be any more exciting opening than "Track A - Solo Dancer" on "The Black Saint and the sinner lady. " Stoked by the drums of Danny Richmond, the band swirls around the grumbling tones of the tuba in a kaleidoscope of colours, the time signatures constantly shifting before a piercing soprano solo rounds things off, pursued by the growling brass. This is nothing short of incredible.
More than any other recording, this offering demonstrates the bassist's love of the music of Duke Ellington - indeed Rolf Ericson and Quentin Jackson played for the master at one time or the other. Elsewhere, Charlie Mariano's alto evokes Johnny Hodges. The second movement is even more bizarre, an over-blown 1940's big band ballad ( a very strong theme, this one) that morphs into a barbaric vamp on one chord. Jackson's "Tricky Sam" influenced muted trombone is a highlight here - the only way to play the instrument to my ears. After this, there is a bit of flamenco incongruously thrown in. Listening to this over and over again, it becomes impossible to calculate what was written and was improvised. What is certain , is that this music must have taken alot of energy to perform and the rendition of the composition is brilliant, all the musicians seeming determined to ensure it's success and having huge belief in the music.
Here was a composer who was familliar with the whole history of jazz and not ashamed to employ earlier devices such as the Ellingtonesque trumpets and trombone to add richness to the work.
As with much of Mingus's music, there a few dull moments, particularly in the last movement and the composition as a whole could have done with a few more themes rather than the opening one that is repacitulated on many occasions. However, this is rather curmudgeonly as, after "Ah, um", this is Charles Mingus's greatest recording.
In conclusion , this is another essential purchase for a serious jazz collection.