Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady
Analogue Productions CIPJ 35 SA
Charles Mingus (bass, piano)
Jay Berliner (guitar)
Don Butterfield (tuba)
Jaki Byard (piano)
Rolf Ericson & Richard Gene Williams (trumpets)
Dick Hafer (flute, tenor saxophone)
Quentin Jackson (trombone)
Charlie Mariano (alto saxophone)
Jerome Richardson (flute, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone)
Dannie Richmond (drums)
In January of 1963, bassist and composer Charles Mingus recorded a very personal and socially conscious work he titled The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady. Each composition, from the opening "Solo Dancer" to the closing "Group and Solo Dance" was a musical expression of Mingus' philosophy of life, love and the world around him. To the legendary bassist, this recording was so personal that he asked his friend, clinical psychologist Dr. Pollack, to review the music. As Dr. Pollack stated in the original liner notes: "Psychologists interpret behavior... why not apply this skill to music." Dr. Pollack did just that, interpreting the Mingus message inherent in his music - music that speaks of the artists' yearning for love, peace and freedom. For Charlie Mingus and the musicians that joined him - Charlie Mariano, alto saxophone; Jake Byard, piano; Jay Berliner, guitar; Don Butterfield, tuba; Dick Hafer, tenor saxophone and flute; Quentin Jackson, trombone - The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady was much more than just another album, it was a jazz ballet performed by a small ensemble. It has become a landmark event.
Originally released in 1963.
Mastered by Kevin Gray.
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Review by Mark Werlin - August 9, 2021
Was Charles Mingus a thwarted classical composer, as he perceived himself? Try listening to “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” as a work of African-American 20th-century classical music, rather than as a jazz album. Labels matter. Perspective is shaped by context.
The tragedy of Mingus – the fault which lay not in his stars, but in himself – can be measured in the distance between the endless pursuit of an artistic vision and a boundless capacity for squandering his resources. In 1963, having burned bridges at the major labels Atlantic and Columbia, he accepted an offer from Bob Thiele at Impulse! to record a musical project conceived as a modern work of art theater, a ballet that was never mounted, to music which Mingus could only have realized in collaboration with pianist-arranger Bob Hammer.
If you haven’t heard that name, you are forgiven; the Indianapolis-born Hammer, a respected musician and teacher who followed a sane career course, never sought fame and never received the critical attention he deserved. A deflected come-on by Mingus to Hammer’s wife led to their meeting in 1957 and to Hammer’s work on Mingus’ Bethlehem album “A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry”. Hammer was one of the beleaguered arrangers who brought a semblance of order to Mingus’ chaotic 1961 Town Hall concert. Mingus appropriated Hammer’s band during a six-week engagement at the Village Vanguard in 1963, the fruits of which appear on “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” and “Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus”, the follow-up release on Impulse!
Situated between the avant-garde quartet of the 1960 Nat Hentoff sessions and the fiery 1964 touring band, Hammer’s ensemble sounds proficient and well-rehearsed – qualities lacking in Mingus’ earlier efforts at large-scale performances and recordings. Brass players Rolf Ericson, Richard Williams, Quentin Jackson and Don Butterfield, and a woodwind section of Jerome Richardson, Charles Mariano, and Dick Hafer augmented by guitarist Jay Berliner, joined by close Mingus associates Jaki Byard and Dannie Richmond, assembled on January 20, 1963 in the RCA Studios spacious soundstage. The players were positioned in a wide Left-Right stereo configuration. Mingus grouped the musicians according to timbre and section; counter-melodies are played by small units within the larger ensemble, adding complexity and density to the ensemble conception.
The hi-res alternative to Kevin Gray’s AP SACDs of Mingus’ Impulse! releases are 24/96 downloads from Verve – an acquired division of Universal Music Group. Download vendors do not list the mastering engineer or tape provenance, because Verve chooses not to provide that information. Though I have only heard the 24/96 version of “Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus”, and not of “Black Saint”, I would expect the Verve download to be of equally good sound quality.
Lacking an original Impulse LP for comparison limits my ability to comment about sound quality, but generally I find that Kevin Gray's productions have a more neutral character than that of other remastering engineers. That's not faint praise; this release is in the upper tier of AP's 1960s jazz reissues.
It was a setback for Mingus personally, and for the development of jazz music, that the two Impulse! band sessions were his last studio recordings for more than five years, until his return to activity at the end of the decade.
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