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Duke Ellington: Money Jungle

Jim Santella By

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The dramatic character of this album’s title track tells you from the start that few trio jam sessions have ever carried so much weight. Recorded in 1962, it brought together three definitive leaders in this field we call jazz. Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach interpreted a program of swinging Ellington material. His “Money Jungle,” “African Flower,” “Very Special” and “Wig Wise” were introduced to the listening public for the first time with this LP. Blue Note has added additional material from the same recording session, some of which was previously unissued. “Caravan” finds Mingus emoting in lyrical fashion while walking the bass forcefully. Roach drives the classic tune straight ahead while Ellington reaches down to obtain the majestic harmonic formula originally intended. “Switch Blade” has a trademark Mingus intro that sets the mood for a slow, nightingale-like piano swinger. The bassist steps forward later with walking bass along a hiking boot landscape, and then as soloist with tales to tell. The trio converses and shares a common idea of what kind of blade is being switched. Blades of grass and a natural charm suit the day. “A Little Max,” of course, features Roach with a variety of textures. Like much of the session, “REM Blues” simply creates a blues field into which the trio lays out their interpretations. REM, which must surely represent Roach-Ellington-Mingus, finds three relaxed giants having a good time. The slower alternate take, not issued previously, turns out even better than the other. Sometimes, as heard here, an alternate take is simply a very tough choice between two excellent tracks. Considering its 24-bit mastery and the addition of rare but exceptional material, this 40-year-old, highly recommended session has gotten better with age.

Track Listing: Money Jungle; Fleurette Africaine; Very Special; Warm Valley; Wig Wise; Caravan; Solitude; Switch Blade; A Little Max (Parfait); REM Blues; Backward Country Boy Blues; Solitude; Switch Blade; A Little Max (Parfait); REM Blues.

Personnel: Duke Ellington- piano; Charles Mingus- bass; Max Roach- drums.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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