Album of the Day: Charles Mingus

Firstly, a thousand apologies to any regular readers that may or may not be out there. I haven’t posted anything for several days, and now I return with a post that isn’t even about films? I know, I’m one of those bloggers that can’t stick to the point. As a small consolation, here are some haikus summarizing the films I have seen in the past few days:

Old School:
I chuckled just once,
Wasn’t my choice to watch it.
Do not recommend.

Mystery Train:
Quiet enigma,
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins acting?
I love Mitsuko.

L.A. Confidential:
Corrupt bastard cops,
How modern noir should be done.
Violence with meaning!

Touch of Evil:
Nice Orson touches,
Brownface Heston distracting.
Get over it though.

What did I say about sticking to the point? Okay, on with the Mingus thingus…

Click Mingus to listen on

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of Charles Mingus’s several masterpieces. It was the first jazz record to use studio multi-tracking techniques, creating a dense and layered sound which is sometimes overwhelming – in a good way. It’s also probably the only album ever released with liner notes written by the artist’s psychotherapist, but don’t hold me to that. I’d love to start a band called Pyschotherapist, then insist that it’s pronounced “Psycho the Rapist”, but I don’t think we’d get much airplay. And it’s doubtless already been done. I digress…

There are actually enough ideas here for at least four albums, and more music than I could handle when I first heard it. But I listened to it last night and again this morning, and realised it’s just a fucking great album. The kind of album that’s so great, you have to use words like fucking to explain just how much you fucking think of it.

The album is a forty-minute suite comprising six parts, written as a ballet. Whether an actual ballet has ever been produced, I don’t know, but I like to imagine Cyd Charisse dancing to it. Ahh, Cyd… I digress once more. Anyway, a six-part ballet suite? It sounds a little pretentious, but the joy of Mingus is that the cerebral concept is just a springboard for some accessible, emotional, involving and powerful music. I’m in my twenties, which means my imagination is long dead, but The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady somehow stimulates my mind’s eye once more. I see those ballet dancers, I see flames and smoke, matadors, weeping trumpets, tender lovers and violent storms.

This rant sounds pathetic. I’m a musician, but I can’t write about music. If you have the album already, I urge you to dig it out again and listen to it. If you don’t have it, you can listen to the whole thing on If you need an introduction to jazz, Mingus is a great one; it’s not an exercise in technical prowess, even though the musicians are all accomplished. At its best, it’s emotion distilled into music. And Mingus was prone to wild mood swings, so he had just about every known emotion for inspiration.

More recommended Mingus tracks on
Better Git It In Your Soul (super-happy-joy)
Theme For Lester Young (super-sad-plaintive)

One Response to “Album of the Day: Charles Mingus”

  1. yeah black saint is brilliant, didn’t know about that ballet thing

    the psycho the rapist thing is nice, but i’m sorry to say arrested development already had a better one

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