Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

More Charles Mingus

  • Charles Mingus’s avant-garde jazz masterpiece makes it back to the site with superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • This copy is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • One of the most acclaimed jazz records of the 20th century – a dizzying blend of jazz and classical, and also elements of African music and Spanish themes
  • 5 stars: “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and — implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist — it’s as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle.”

This vintage Impulse! pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For On The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

A Jazz Masterpiece

We consider this album Charles Mingus’s Masterpiece. It belongs in any serious Jazz Collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

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 Two

Trio And Group Dancers (Stop! Look! And Sing Songs Of Revolutions!)
Single Solos And Group Dance (Saint And Sinner Join In Merriment On Battle Front)
Group And Solo Dance (Of Love, Pain, And Passioned Revolt, Then Farewell, My Beloved, ’til It’s Freedom Day)

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and — implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist — it’s as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter’s attention to detail. There are a few stylistic reference points — Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks — but the totality is quite unlike what came before it.

Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano. Within that framework, Mingus plays shifting rhythms, moaning dissonances, and multiple lines off one another in the most complex, interlaced fashion he’d ever attempted. Mingus was sometimes pigeonholed as a firebrand, but the personal exorcism of Black Saint deserves the reputation — one needn’t be able to follow the story line to hear the suffering, mourning, frustration, and caged fury pouring out of the music.

The 11-piece group rehearsed the original score during a Village Vanguard engagement, where Mingus allowed the players to mold the music further; in the studio, however, his exacting perfectionism made The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady the first jazz album to rely on overdubbing technology. The result is one of the high-water marks for avant-garde jazz in the ’60s and arguably Mingus’ most brilliant moment.

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