Artist: Charles Mingus
Title: “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady”
This has a reputation as Charles Mingus’ best and one of the best jazz records ever recorded.
Written as a ballet, Mingus’ masterpiece weaves a tapestry of influences including Duke Ellington, flamenco guitar and experimental big band to craft “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.” He called it “ethnic folk dance music” and that’s about as good a name as any.
The six movements are carved into four tracks, but it’s easier to digest as a whole. “Black Saint” is known for pioneering overdubbing in jazz and the chaotic buzz of opening track “Solo Dancer” shows us how.
The music moves fluidly from one language to another, an array of moods and colors spanning the spectrum of human emotion. “Duet Solo Dancers” puffs up its shoulders and shows a swagger as the listener can practically hear trumpet player Rolf Ericson speaking into his horn.
More than the technical achievement is the texture of the arrangement and performances. Mingus often slinks into the background and lets the 11-member supporting cast take charge, but never doubt who is ruling the roost.
“Black Saint” rivals Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” as the best album I’ve heard so far in this project.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.