Jazz & Blues Edge: Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady 1963

Credit: BootLoverPhotography

by Ms. Ann


Solo Dancer (Stop! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!)          6:20

Duet Solo Dancers (Heart’s Beat And Shades In Physical Embraces)       6:25

Group Dancers ({Soul Fusion} Freewoman And Oh This Freedom’s Slave Cries)  7:00

MODE D, E, & F        18:39

Trio And Group Dancers (Stop! Look! And Sing Songs Of Revolutions!)

Single Solos And Group Dance (Saint And Sinner Join In Merriment On Bottle Front)

Group And Solo Dance (Of Love, Pain, And Passioned Revolt, Then Farewell, My Beloved, ’til It’s Freedom Day)


Charles Mingus — bass, piano, composer

Jerome Richardson — soprano and baritone saxophone, flute

Charlie Mariano — alto saxophone

Dick Hafer — tenor saxophone, flute

Rolf Ericson — trumpet

Richard Williams — trumpet

Quentin Jackson — trombone

Don Butterfield — tuba, contrabass trombone

Jaki Byard — piano

Jay Berliner — acoustic guitar

Dannie Richmond – drums

Bob Hammer – arranger

Bob Thiele – production



The album was recorded on January 20, 1963 by an eleven piece jazz orchestra, with extensive use of studio overdubbing techniques.

This composition is a four part ballet.  Charles Mingus used overdubbing techniques in the studio to bring you the perfection of his composition, rather than a “live” or “improvised” or “spontaneous” representation of his composition.


I love this record.  The 39:27 minutes of music go by so fast because when I am simply in the moment with the music, with all the sounds around me unfolding, stretching and bending the beat, and then returning solidly to it, only to unfold again in different ways, the music steadfast maintains my focus.  It deeply reminds me of playing in The Improviser’s Orchestra in 1977.  I love the richness of the sound, the complexity, the thematic captures, and how the entire piece flows.  It is a brilliant composition executed with mastery.  While there is overdubbing, I am in awe of the musicianship, the level of artistry of each musician, the ability of the jazz orchestra as a whole to maintain the intensity of feeling/emotion throughout the entire piece.

Track A – Solo Dancer

Music is only as meaningful as it is to YOU.  For me, this movement sends me to a point in time: I am walking around Oakland trying to make sense of all the changes going on in my body being a very early teen, all the changes happening in 1969, it is an inner and outer evaluation.  I am alone, cast against the huge starkness of pavement and unknown buildings, cast against groups of folks I do not understand.  From the entrance of the drum, to the alto saxophone voice, leading to the baritone saxophone, leading to the soprano saxophone, a solo lithe voice floating and navigating though the drone of the city, the oppression, the separation between me and all the negative, discord around me.  This music speaks to me of this lonely and dissonant time.  The music is composed in such a way to compare the individual to groups, the indivudual voice to the mob and it does this exquisitely.

Track B- Duet Solo Dancers

The piano brings in a flowing almost Ellington theme, while playing at the tension of before and after the beat.  This discord builds, compounded with the thickness of orchestration presenting a chordal beating countering the fluidness of the solos.  A duet between winds and brass, a duet between harmony and dissonance, a duet between punctuation and floating lyrical melody is presented.  There is a recapitulation of the Ellingtonesque theme, while abstract sounds of chaos counter sounds of harmonious beauty.

Track C – Group Dancers

I would compare this movement to being in a Town Hall Meeting and all the voices of the jazz orchestra want to be heard.  It has shifting moods and textures. It is absorbing, intense, beautiful and acutely distressing.  It is a lush piano solo played by Mingus, a chorus of voices, a strong yet emotive flute solo breaking to a classic flamenco guitar solo and the music takes off in another direction.  Multiple tracks are overdubbed to create a hectic avant-garde tsunami of sound.  An alto saxophone solo wails over this block of thematic material which decrescendos and breaks to the impressive saxophone solo finishing out the movement.

Mode D – Trio and Group Dancers/Mode E – Single Solos and Group Dance/Mode F – Group and Solo Dance

This three part movement is a recapitulation of the previous Tracks, expanding on various elements presented previously.  This is music of group interaction. Solo voices emerge from the welter and are drawn back into it. At times the ferocity of each voice clamoring with the others reaches such a furious intensity that it would take just one more step for it to be musical violence.

Mode D begins with a tune similar to Track C, the drum introducing the piano solo, responses of groups of instruments, a beautiful bluesy string bass solo by Mingus for four bars, then the orchestra states thematic material from Track A with a freer and more swinging style, bringing us to a break with soft and tender Spanish flamenco guitar thematic material recapitulated and expanded on,  then transition to the jazz orchestra voices joining in, enter controlled chaos swirling down the path, to join and bind into one voice, breaking to an emotive piano solo, the flute theme rearticulated over briefly.  Repeat/rinse.  All of this is thematic material from Track B.  The Flamenco guitar duet with alto saxophone is hauntingly beautiful.  The orchestra begins to layer in voices, building the intensity, recapitulating themes, to a joining of arms together to a chordal swing strut.  Such relief is given to us in this harmony after discord.  The tempo speeds up to a worrisome pace, then resolves again to a swing, again speeding up to a frantic pace, lone voices calling out, and resolving again and turning into a dirty dirge swing, this evolving to a brighter, lighter harmonious swing yet again repeating the tempo increase, breaking to the saxophones playing hints of previous themes played against chords of waves rocking back and forth, resolving to a lonely saxophone voice.

In summary, this isn’t a background jazz album you play while doing something else.  It is a musical journey demanding your complete attention.  It is a very worthwhile trip of harmony versus discord, individual solo line versus group dynamics, an in-depth theoretic discourse on tempo, and chaos versus order or semi-organization.  This music fully engages my senses and is worth the price of the ticket.