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124 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2000
...but by no means his most accessible. If you are new to Mingus, do not start with this one. Go for Mingus Ah Um, then Pithecanthropus Erectus or Mingus at Antibes. THEN immerse yourself in The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. By then, you will be familiar with the whole cast of characters and Mingus' revolutionary approach to musical composition. Jaki Byard's piano will sweep you away. Charlie Mariano's saxophone will leave wondering about might have beens. Dannie Richmond's skins will leave you in awe. And all of them playing together will leave you with an overriding sense of how Mingus cultivates genius in those around him. There is vast musical freedom, yet remarkable structure throughout. Robert Frost was once asked why he never wrote in free verse; he responded that he didn't feel like playing tennis with the net down. I think of Charles Mingus the same way; you often think that the music will degenerate into chaos, but it never happens (well, at least not unplanned chaos). One of the top five jazz albums ever made.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Regarded by "The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD" as "Mingus' masterpiece," this can be a challenging CD. The compositions are titled as dance pieces, and I'd love to see the album performed that way. The album is of one piece; its separation into six tracks is somewhat artificial. (Indeed, some tracks blend together without discernable separation). The opener, "Solo Dancer" features passages with soaring Coltrane-like abstraction over the usual Mingus abstract intensity mixed with lush quiet beauty. It's a brooding piece with a terrific baritone sax leading the noire way over Mingus' moving bass lines, moving to a very full arrangement and then back to the sax. Overall, it reminded me of a little of Ellington/Strayhorn effects on Chelsea Bridge.
"Duet Solo Dancers" is, again, very Ellington, and the 11 pieces in the Mingus band are so big, varied, and so "present," that it sounds more like an orchestra. Absolutely superb recording. Mingus manages, as always, to fit abstract and free-sounding expression within a swinging, coherent structure. It's an almost dizzying piece and (like the rest of the CD) an organic extension of went before.
"Group Dancers" is one of the most beautiful pieces here, with a piano-led motif that leads easily to visuals of dancers. Mingus lays back, and lets Jackie Byard' piano and Jerome Richardson and Dick Hafer's flutes tell the story. About midway through, the composition picks up some flamenco touches from guitarist Jay Berliner, then the horns (Dick Hafer, Charles Mariano, Jerome Richardson on sax, Quentin Jackson on trombone, Don Butterfield on tuba) sing out before revisiting the main theme (with dazzling work by Mingus ). "Group Dancers" leads seamlessly to Tracks 4-6 (there's no break) which emphasize the Flamenco accents even more. Just about perfect! Anyone who thinks Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" is THE word on classical/jazz confluence (or on "Spanish" interpolations) has got to hear this album (a much superior work, in my opinion). My only complaint is some redundancy: A few minutes might have been cut from Tracks 4-6 without losing much.
Again, one of his most organic and original efforts, this belongs in just about every jazz library (well, along with "Ah Um" and "Oh Yeah" and a few other personal favorites). It may take a couple of listenings to fully appreciate it, but it is both raucous and sublime.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2000
Charles Mingus had always incorporated elements of modern avante-garde composition into his bop-esque and free-jazz/avant garde work while holding himself firmly within the jazz idiom. Here, he cast aside all the restrictions of both genres and meshed the two into an unbelievably complex, and yet emotionally and musically stunning magnum opus. Unlike Mingus' previous albums, rather than being merely a showcase for different tunes which may have had little to do with eachother melodically and structurally, this cd comprises the six movements of a symphony, and the music and ideas flow into eachother seamlessly. My favorite moment comes during the third track, "Group Dancers" when, after Mingus hints at an amazing melodic figure on the piano, the full ensemble plays it in all its glory. Anyone who loves music is missing something if he or she has never heard this milestone of melodic ingenuity.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 17, 2005
Heralded by many as Charles Mingus' masterwork, "Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" stands as one of his most powerful and difficult compositions. Recorded during his brief tenure on Impulse! (1963, during which Mingus turned out three of his best works), "Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" is a suite for a ballet, perhaps a representation of the tortured psyche of the composer. It is dark, haunting, and probably the most difficult work Mingus has ever done-- drawing as much from contemporary classical and the avant-garde (in both classical and jazz) as it does from jazz tradition (a healthy dose of Ellington, certainly) with an overt flamenco influence, the album sounds quite like nothing else Mingus has done-- the gospel shout sound, so prevelent in his music, is largely gone, and yet the album is uniquely and qualifiably Mingus.

Assembling an eleven piece band-- four brass (Rolf Ericson and Richard Williams on trumpet, Quentin Jackson on trombone and DOn Butterfield on tuba), three reeds (Jerome Richardson on soprano and baritone sax and flute, Dick Hafer on tenor sax and flute and Charles Mariano on alto sax) and rhythm (Jaki Byard on piano, Jay Berliner on guitar, Mingus on bass and occasionally piano, and Dannie Richmond on drums), Mingus composes in shifting moods-- delicate reeds offsetting grunting low brass, piano interludes, blues, Baroque imagery, and at times almost Cecil Taylorish arrangements. And through this, he somehow synthasizes a sound of his own, sympathetically performed by the band, in particular with Mariano really full of passion and energy. His cries and wails on "Track A" and "Track C" are nothing short of astounding (similarly, Mingus' piano intro to "Track C" is equally astonishing). But really, great performances are turned out throughout.

The album's liner notes contain an extensive and nonsensical essay from Mingus and a brief one from his psychologist (!).

In all, a superb effort. Not a good place to start with Mingus, unless you come from a rather avant-garde background, but definitely a superb album, highly recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2003
If you are a fan of jazz, real jazz, and you have not heard this album, slap yourself now. If you are a fan of brilliant music and you have not heard this album, slap yourself and then slap the person next to you for not telling you to listen. This is the most amazing jazz album in the history of mankind. Period.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2000
It's hard to imagine music getting any better than this. "The Black Saint..." effectively transcends the bounadaries of jazz with references to classical music, furious and quirky swipes at the Ellington encyclopedia, the usual Mingus juke joint/ revival tent grit and shimmering moments of pure pathos. This is a turbulent, hypnotic masterpiece. Certainly not "entry-level" Mingus, newcomers will fare much better with a primer of "Mingus Ah Um","Blues and Roots", or even "Live at Antibes". Those that do will ultimately find "The Black Saint..." to be his most rewarding work. You will find very few albums in ANY genre that evoke as many powerful images and emotions again and again.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2006
Few albums of any genre can manage to convey so many emotions with so little words. The album is about Mingus' confusion and psychiatric problems he underwent, explained in the legendary linear notes by his shrink. As informative as the notes are, the music itself is more expressive of how Mingus felt. Possibly no other Jazz artist managed to create an album this personal. As for the music itself, its amazing. The deep layers ensure that you'll discover something new with each listen. As good as this album sounds on the first listen, its bound to even sound better on the fifteenth. It makes me sad that many people's knowledge of Jazz is "Kind of Blue" and nothing else. This album is as good as (if not better than) anything Miles Davis released. Much heraled in post-Bop and cool-school Jazz circles, this masterpeice should be wider known. It is one of the most complex peices of music of the 20th century. The greatest avant-garde album of all time.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2002
Allthough Ah um is the best known of Mingus' albums, his full vision is at play in this magnificent record. This is a remarkable record for several reasons (remarkable records often are). The use of tape overdubbing is one of them. A strange thing for a jazz composer to do, especially in 63, but it helps explain the ambitions of Mingus at the time. Never content with "regularity", the strongly Ellington-influenced compositions on this album play into eachother (apparently Mingus inteded it to be one long piece) and the instrumentation is impeccable. Mingus' basslines dance throughout the whole set (listen particularly to the passage in the middle of Track A-Solo Dancer, he never played better), rhythms tease and horns screech creating their own world, or perhaps depicting our own. Allthough the liner notes discard any interpretation, the music begs us to ask questions, like all true art.A lot of people shun records like this finding them hard to listen to, or even unmusical and unhuman. I ask them: When your in love, doesn't your heart beat irregularly? When you're angry, don't you feel like screaming? Why shouldn't these things be presented in music as well? Most of these people don't want to listen to music anyway. They just want something cozy in the background.
We're not a floating around in a vacuum, deprived of any emotion. We're all saints and sinners. Mingus would wanna holler at those people. P.S.: This was one of famed rock-critic Lester Bangs favorite albums.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2000
This record is crazy cool. It's like a painting with a thousand burning colors, wild, untamed but harnessed. It's not easy listening, it's hard and beautiful like Mahavishnu's "Inner Mounting Flame." The spirit that suffered to make this art is evident throughout, forcing you to empathize. Charles Mariano, the sax player on this, also plays some of the most amazing saxophone ever heard on Eberhard Weber's great fusion record "Silent Feet." Let all the stupid rappers who don't know how to sublimate their anger listen and learn what greatness is.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2008
You listen to this album and you're somewhere different. I don't know where, exactly, but it exists out of time, out of space, a sort of subconscious musical twilight zone, a half remembered dream, the kind of thoughts that you can only grab at peripherally. This is music it is supposed to exist, music that fulfills the very purpose of music, and that is to express what words can't, to give life and dimension to those thoughts and longings and feelings that every human being worth the breath in his or her body has felt at some point in time. Mingus, a genius if there ever was one, takes the entire scope of human emotion as his palate, hurling himself into every second and sound on this record, singing his soul without reservation or restraint. Of course, he demands no less from his band, and they perform incredibly. The music is raw, even in its stunning complexity. It's a harrowed, cathartic rush of sound, furious and urgent and utterly direct. It isn't always beautiful, but it supposed to be; Mingus is grappling with nothing less than life itself, and that means making concessions to chaos, disorder, fear, and violence. What's so amazing about the pice is that its more harrowing moments go hand-in-hand with equally unforgettable evocations of love, harmony, and joy. These feelings interact in every way imaginable, doing battle in countless permutations and juxtapositions. It's gorgeous even at its most hideous, and harrowing even at its most beautiful. It's a masterpiece. You owe this to yourself.
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