Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: An Appreciation

When the last lingering saxophone note of the piece fades out of existence, you feel like your whole life has been thrown in a continuum. You don't even know where you are anymore, or how long it's been.

There are a thousand screams hidden beneath the surface of this music. A few of them are audible; the shouts and grunts of the frustration of pure existence. When you listen to the Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, you can hear Mingus yelling. You can tell that he was a fucked up person. When I listen I close my eyes and I see the African American struggle, the trial of history. I see bodies and nooses. 

The music also conjures up beautiful women and lakes of crystal. Delicate dancers and skaters in fall. Most of all it invokes the city; that particular brand of urban despair. You can scream as loud as you want to but you still won't be heard. 

I see brothels and taverns. I see 60's revolution, throw up and gin. 

The music itself is beyond compare and the composition as a whole is one of the most ambitious and textured in all of jazz. There are vibes, not even noticeable on the first few listens that softly add detail. Flamenco guitar strums, the moaning registers of brass instruments. Mournful sax breaks, cries. Elegantly braying flutes and that piano, oh that piano. 

Beyond words; just listen and leave a person changed.