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Money Jungle by Duke Ellington

In the early 60s, while the jazz world was divided into 2 camps, trad/mainstream vs. free jazz/avant-garde, three of jazz’s Biggest Daddies got together for a session that should have messed everybody up, in that it went beyond category, stood alone in its unassuming brilliance and defied expectations. The Duke, Mingus and Max, masters of their respective instruments, all leaders and innovators in their own right, got together, and had they just walked down Memory Lane it would’ve likely been swell. (Besides, Ellington didn’t often record in this kind of stripped-down context.) But Ellington wrote some stuff especially for this session, and it proves he was no holdover from the Swing Era. "Money Jungle" and "Fleurette Africaine" are spare, haunting, minimalist, engaging yet unsentimental, forward-looking yet rooted in the spirit of the blues. Roach can cook, crackle and burn on the traps (as well as be lyrical - and how many drummers can one say that about?), but he’s marvelously understated here, as well as being the essence of swing. Mingus drives his bass with his usual gospel-inspired fervor. Ellington’s piano epitomizes elegance and sophistication, but always in a thoughtfully down-to-earth, unfussy manner. Whereas some soloists can go on and on an on, The Duke says more with a few select notes than some pianists can in a whole album. In fact, everyone here plays it short and sweet, playing superbly together as opposed to let’s-jam, state the theme, I solo for as long as I can, then you, then him, etc. Though this classic has been available before (on vinyl and CD), this version gets the digitally remastered treatment and four additional "bonus" cuts, two of which are previously unreleased. Money Jungle is heartily recommended to fans of the performers, piano trio fans, anyone who enjoys great improvised and instrumental music in general!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Duke Ellington
  • CD Title: Money Jungle
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Reissue Original Release: 1962
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Musicians: The Duke: piano; Charles Mingus: bass; Max Roach: drums.
  • Rating: Five Stars
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