Posted in Charles Mingus, Cosmic Masterpiece, Music Reviews

Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady – Review


A “review”, for those unfamiliar, is an explanation of the reviewers’ feelings towards a given work. My feelings towards The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady are easy enough to identify: I love it. Like, I really, really, REALLY, REALLY love it. This is the first jazz album I’ve had such a strong reaction to so immediately, and it’s definitely secured a place in my top 20 albums or so.

Here’s my problem: I don’t know how to EXPLAIN why I love this so much, for several reasons. Firstly, I’m a godawful writer. You can already see that. Second, I’m a godawful jazz listener. I’ve heard bits and pieces of Coltrane and Davis all around, but the only three jazz albums I’ve listened too in full at this current date are Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme and this one. As such, I have almost no experience breaking down this stuff, or comparing to anything else. I managed to get out an acceptable Love Supreme review somehow, but I just plain don’t know what to say here.

Well, I’ve got this tiny reference pool, so I’ll use it. I really liked A Love Supreme and was fine with Kind of Blue, but found those albums a bit too noodley to truly connect with me (though A Love Supreme was much better about this, passion and all that). The first thing that struck me about The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady when I started to write about it is how melodic it is. All the overdubs and carefully crafted themes create a soaring listening experience, as recognizable melodies dash in and out of the speakers. It feels much more precisely measured then most jazz I’ve heard, but not any less emotionally fueled.

In the playing department, the piano, drums, and flamenco guitar should be singled out. The piano’s tenderness holds things together and introduces new parts, the work on the drums is intensely mesmerizing, and the lovely flamenco guitars are the highlights whenever they’re at work. The trumpets are fantastically powerful as well, full of feeling and beauty.

The sound as a whole is fantastic, for one major reason: this thing is friggin’ weird. The perfectly orchestrated semi-chaos of the melodies makes for some intense listening. Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme sounded pretty much like I expected them too, but holy Whitney, I didn’t see this one coming.

Obviously I’m no jazz analyst, but I’m pretty sure there’s not even a second on this album I didn’t enjoy. I’ll strive to one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) be well versed in jazz beyond the “canon” albums of Davis and Coltrane, and if I find anything else like this I’ll be ecstatic. Maybe I’ll even be able to write about it without coming off like a total dingus.

Mr. Mingus, I salute you. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your work.

Music: 5/5

Thematic Content: 5/5

Diversity: 5/5

Resonance: 5/5

Experience: Flipping frantically through lovely society pages, unsure of what you’re looking for but reveling in the classiness of the moment.

10+/10. Best Song: Heck if I know. Possibly “Group Dancers.”