The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady
This 1963 recording occupies a special place in Mingus's work, his most brilliantly realized extended composition. The six-part suite is a broad canvas for the bassist's tumultuous passions, ranging from islands of serenity for solo guitar and piano to waves of contrapuntal conflict and accelerating rhythms that pull the listener into the musical psychodrama. It seems to mingle and transform both the heights and clichés of jazz orchestration, from Mingus's master, Duke Ellington, to film noir soundtracks. The result is a masterpiece of sounds and textures, from the astonishing vocal effects of the plunger-muted trumpets and trombone (seeming to speak messages just beyond the range of understanding) to the soaring romantic alto of Charlie Mariano. Boiling beneath it all are the teeming, congested rhythms of Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond and the deep morass of tuba and baritone saxophone. This is one of the greatest works in jazz composition, and it's remarkable that Mingus dredged this much emotional power from a group of just 11 musicians.