Duke Ellington, Money Jungle

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Money Jungle

Duke Ellington
A trio date with everyone’s hero

Jazz is co-operative music: Everyone pulls together, in a little model society. But sometimes friction pays off. Charles Mingus was in a foul mood, the day in 1962 that he and drummer Max Roach recorded the classic Money Jungle, a trio date with everyone's hero Duke Ellington. Max said later the problem was, Duke played so much left-hand piano he crowded Mingus's bass; Duke said Mingus was bugged at Max. Whatever — the bassist walked out and had to be talked back in. But Mingus knew how to channel his passions. So on "Money Jungle" he pulls one string around the side of the neck to make an ungodly heckling sound, and Roach turns up the heat, reacting to every rhythmic subtlety in his mates' lines. But old lions like Duke didn't let anyone upstage them, not even this ferociously modern pair. Instead he gives them a lesson in what he'd wrought: draws a line between his percussive touch and Cecil Taylor's ("Money Jungle") or sounds uncannily like then obscure '50s piano hero Herbie Nichols in his own trios with Max ("Wig Wise"). And everyone behaves on the ballads.