Donald Harrison, Jr. (far left) and the New Orleans Music Interns (photo: Joel A. Siegel)
6. Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Impulse!, 1963)
There is no isolating a track on this fearsome magnum opus. Still smarting from a disastrous appearance at New York’s Town Hall a few months before, Mingus marshaled all of his resources as well as (if the album’s liner notes—written by his psychiatrist—are any indication) his psychic turmoil into a 40-minute, six-movement work that is something between a ballet, a symphony, an Andalusian folk expedition, and a blues workout. There may be no album in all of jazz with so much drama and intricate development, and there are few albums anywhere with such magnificent orchestral texture. (It’s an 11-piece band that includes two trumpets, two flutes, tuba, and classical guitar, all in mind-blowing combinations.) There’s little point in trying to elaborate further: Black Saint is a stunningly unique piece of music whose only reasonable description is the word seared across the top of the album cover: MINGUS.