On January 20, 1963, bassist and composer Charles Mingus recorded in just one session — astonishingly — a very personal and socially conscious work he titled The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady. With liner notes written by Mingus's psychotherapist, the album uses ornate ensemble orchestration to produce a sound somewhere between jazz and folk.
Released on Impulse! Records in 1963, the album consists of a single continuous composition — partially written as a ballet — divided into four tracks and six movements. Of his adventurous and hauntingly eloquent work, among his other creations, Mingus said: "My music is evidence of my soul's will to live." The evidence of that life-force amounts to some of the most dramatic and powerful jazz composed in the 20th century.
Mingus was born in Arizona on April 22, 1922 and raised in Los Angeles. He was taught double-bass by Red Callendar, and by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's Herman Rheinshagen (classical music played as big a part in his compositional thinking as gospel songs and the blues). Mingus toured with New Orleans players Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory in the 40s, and later worked briefly with Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington.
If he had been an improvising instrumentalist alone, Mingus would have been a jazz legend simply for his bass playing. Yet bass-playing also gave Mingus an insight into the low sonorities and inner hamonies of jazz composition, and his melodic approach was profoundly influenced by the blues and gospel music of his childhood.