"Solo Dancer", "Group Dancers" - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady - Charles Mingus

It almost feels pointless to me, trying to describe the music here. The album comes with twenty pages of liner notes, most of them by Mingus himself, and the rest by Mingus's psychologist. Mingus is variously charming, passionate, egotistical, hilarious, garbled, astounding, and off-topic. He even concludes by saying

As far as reviewing the music on the record, I'll leave that up to someone who is very close to me personally - Doctor Pollock.

Pollock himself said, "I thought I was competent enough as a psychologist but that my interest in music was only average and without any technical background. Mr. Mingus laughed and said he didn't care, that if I heard his music I'd understand." Pollock goes on to give a brief, somewhat perceptive take on the record, relying on plenty of educated-sounding critical tropes; he references the movements' subtitles (because really this is one long piece of music, in separate movements, with long subtitles like "Stop! Look! and Sing Songs of Revolutions!" and "Saint and Sinner Join in Merriment on Battle Front") and makes obvious connections between them, the music, and his own personal knowledge of Mingus: "He also is cognizant of a power dominated and segregated society's impact on the underdog," or "He seems to state that the black man is not alone but all mankind must unite in revolution against any society that restricts freedom and human rights," to give two examples.

Rambling and off-topic as they are, Mingus' notes provide a much better textual window onto the music. He rants about critics, about his pedal point compositions, about society. He gives tender shout-outs to his bandmembers, arranger, producer. He discusses the form of the music (on this actual record, even!) and the various horn arrangements and what he wanted from them ("Don, aside from pedal point notes of both contrabass trombone and tuba, is written in counterlead and center tones on tuba to spread my voicings and help form the illusion of spreaded brass or full ensemble."). He also, implicitly, reveals a lot of what Pollock talks about: his irascibility, his vision, his heart. At one point he even makes a statement that, at times, I'm inclined to believe:

I feel no need to explain any further the music herewith other than to say throw all other records of mine away except maybe one other. I intend to record it all over again on this label the way it was intended to sound.

It's too bad he didn't have all that long left, in order to complete that ambitious plan. And no, you can't have my old Mingus records.