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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 5 July 2011
The music on this emotionally intense and haunting jazz masterpiece is a kind of running narrative on the US black experience from the days of slavery to the modern city. This is depicted by the use of instruments clearly simulating human voices, whether the joyful singing of sax or the sorrowful murmur of trumpet and trombone or the ghostly howls of tuba and baritone sax. The sounds are a magical combination of orchestral - reminiscent of Duke Ellington, rich melody, hard bop, classical music and flamenco. Arguably the greatest ever jazz album.(see [...])
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on 30 September 2015
I listened to this album years ago and didn't rate it. I have two Mingus albums that I love - Ah Hum and Mingus Dynasty. This album featured in a recent book that I read and there are nothing but rave reviews online- So I listened to the complete album again last night in bed with fresh ears and headphones and then the whole thing through again in the morning. I still don't get it. It sounds like the 11 musicians need a conductor or something as they never seem to be together and the overall balance of each player is wrong. a cacapony with some nice spanish guitar thrown in here and there at random and some really crazy wah wah with muted wind - quite painful to listen to at times. I am speaking as somebody who loves Coltrane's Om and Interstellar Space - I will persist and give it another listen soon ..
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on 28 April 2001
This is a real gem. I think Mingus is severely under-rated as an arranger and genius composer. The stuff on here takes some beating, it has to be said. This will stand thousands of repeat plays, and there will always be surprises, while at the same time you will love growning familiar with it. You can't do without this, or at least some quality Mingus: try also 'Mingus plays piano' for something a bit different.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 September 2012
This 1963 recording by Charles Mingus and his 11-piece ensemble is a magnificent 'concept album' (if I dare use that term), providing, along with John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, my favourite (jazz) examples of this phenomenon. However, whilst Mingus and Coltrane's albums might have common approaches in the use of unifying themes, there the similarity ends, as Coltrane's sparser quartet sound is pretty much the antithesis of Mingus' highly interwoven masterpiece, which draws heavily on the influences of earlier big band jazz (in particular, Mingus' hero Duke Ellington), gospel, blues and, even, classical music.

Whilst the album has many superbly lyrical and melodic themes which recur throughout its six musical Modes (grouped into four album tracks), for me, it is the dynamism and integration of the playing, leading to its overall impression as a single musical piece that set The Black Saint And Sinner Lady apart from pretty much all other jazz (and most other musical) recordings. Underlying the entire recording are Mingus' impassioned themes of minority oppression, revolt, redemption, freedom and love, which together convey the essence that this is music that must not only be listened to, but also deeply felt.

It really is difficult to know where to start in terms of the performances of Mingus assembled musicians, many of whom, despite being well-established sidemen with other leading jazz players, never achieved notoriety as bandleaders. Suffice to say, the playing on the album never falters and I would only pick out Don Butterfield's amazing contrabass trombone and tuba, which provide much of the music's underlying, throbbing rhythm, the exquisite trumpet playing of Rolf Ericson and Richard Williams, whose sound is used to mimic (with remarkable accuracy) the plaintive cries of the oppressed, and the vibrant drumming of Dannie Richmond, who, along with Elvin Jones - another good choice - was Mingus' favoured beatman.

An essential recording.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 October 2014
This is not an easy record to listen to. I've had my copy nigh on twenty years, and although I don't play it incessantly, I do play it from time to time and it's taken time to come to terms with it. Mingus isn't easy, full stop, but this is his most demanding work and apparently one that he himself always rated highly.
Recorded in 1963 by an eleven piece band (there sounds more musicians) this is music for a modern ballet (never performed as far as my researches show). The music is extremely sensuous and emotional, indeed reading the subtitles to the six dances the concept covers all human emotion from anger and afression through to love and physical embraces (sexual encounters?). Listening carefully one hears all manner of themes, styles, influences, rhythms, extracts, etc. The third dance has much of the flavour of "Tijuana Moods" for example.
The best advice I have is to abandon any preconceived ideas about music and let the music take you along with it. It's an emotional roller coaster. Turn the lights down and go with the flow.
This is a masterpiece!
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on 7 July 2008
Forgive the tital, but how exactly do I define an album such as this, or indeed an artist like Mingus? This is the most undoubted five-star I have ever given, because, unlike most art, which either seems clear and gives you a good impression, or seems clear but gives you a banal impression, this does not seem clear ( in any of the multiple meanings of the term) , but gives you a transcendentally impressed feeling afterwards.
Certainly, it does seem quite gloomy. The title makes me think of some sort of lost scripture, with depressing implications for the fate of mankind, and the music is a series of movements circulating around the theme of damnation and torture in chains. The sounds which emerge: thundering, percussive drums, screaming brass, heavy piano, and frankly tempestuous bass from Mingus. The one sound that redeems: the guitar. We feel as if this one voice holds the key to the redemption of the Black Saint and his Sinner Lady, and yet somehow he is still bound down in chains by a clever clash between the alternating keys of the two sections- the guitar and the rest of the orchestra.
If I gave you one reason to buy it, i would say that it is the centre of Mingus's canon, and indeed, the rest of the over 17000 LPs that Impulse released in its lifetime. In its cryptic quality, it fulfils some essentia l sensory longing for coherence. In 1966, when this was recorded, Charles Mingus was undergoing, according to his Biography, some more extensive therapy for his nervous disorder. I assure you that his genius has never been as apparent as on this record, where he fights against the worldly oppression which at the same time represents his natural condition. And yet, one feels that this is the unfulfilment of his wishes.
A final note, and one which every reviewer notes when dealing with this album: his psychiatrist wrote the liner notes. I think just that fact does not need explaining, and neither ( although I have hypocritically attempted to do so!) does his music. "Listen and behold the beautiful Black Mirical". Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
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on 7 April 2008
I bought an early vinyl copy of this album when it was first issued and got much amusement (as did my parents) from playing it to unsuspecting friends. Their movement, or lack of it, was most revealing. Very few noticed what the previous 5 reviewers also seem to have missed, that this is the most accomplished and most explicit musical description of sexual activity that has ever been recorded. Track 2 most obviously. When I met him at Ronnie Scott's, he confirmed that it was his favourite trap for the pretentious. Brilliant.
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on 10 November 2016
Just a tremendous album: imaginative, involving, with a powerful narrative that carries you through. As soon as it finishes I want to play it again.
And it is good for cat soothing. I drove our pet to Somerset last week, a three and a half hour journey. She spent the first half hour yowling, but quietened down and even started to purr along when I put the Mingus on. So it has magic powers to convert your moggy into a jazz cat.
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on 1 September 2017
I can't give an academic dissection of the structure of the music but I do like Jazz and this is a range of music I'd not come across before but liked when I heard it. Listen and see if you agree.
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on 10 December 2015
Im new to jazz, popping this in and played loud was mind blowing, sort of like seeing colour for the first time, incredible production and scope, it just sounds amazing, I cant waffle on intellectually about what Charles Mignus was trying to say or do, I don't know, it just sounds extraordinary..
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