Like Ellington's "Piano in the Foreground", "Money Jungle" is a trio recording in this case featuring Charlie Mingus on bass and Max Roach on drums. Recorded in Sept., 1962. 200 gram vinyl.
What an alliance: a legendary bandleader and composer, a pioneering bop drummer, and an unclassifiable (and often prickly) bass behemoth. It's no wonder that the tension between Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Charlie Mingus is thick and extremely tangible, permeating this breathtaking 1962 album with passion and aggression. On the jagged blues "Very Special," Ellington establishes a weighty mood while his piano work almost borders on free jazz. Roach's sticks dance and prance across every inch of his kit on "A Little Max"; on "Caravan" he effectively shifts from exotic rhythms to straight time. Duke's harmonic invention is delicate and mysterious on "Fleurette Africaine," but simultaneously jarring and cerebral on the confrontational "Wig Wise." It's hard to believe only three people are creating the stomping, disjointed monster that is the title track. Ellington alone emphasizes the beautiful melodies of the classic ballads "Soltitude" and "Warm Valley," but the edge returns when the rhythm section joins him. Mingus, who actually idolized Ellington, seems to be purposely agitating the master, almost taunting him. You'd say the synergy was magical, except that they seem to be working against each other. --Marc Greilsamer