JJ 11/63: Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus, Max Roach – Money Jungle

Sixty years ago Sinclair Traill observed his hero the Duke coolly cut rings around the modernisms of his radical colleagues. First published in Jazz Journal November 1963

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From all the recent Ellington albums with ‘outside’ assistance, this is far and away my favourite. The album with Hawkins was quite delightful, the one with Coltrane intriguing, but this one is a knockout!

The rhythm created by Mingus and Roach is strongly modern, and yet with utmost, disdainful ease Duke cuts rings round both of them. The tunes are all Ellington’s; some of the new ones, notably Wig Wise, are excellent, and he ornaments the old ones with devastatingly beautiful new patterns. This is the best version of Solitude I know, although I must confess I never thought it Duke’s best tune, until I heard it dressed up this way. The same thing happens to Warm Valley and Caravan. Duke remakes them afresh, Caravan in particular receiving a very swingy, very violent treatment at the Ducal hands.

Both Mingus and Roach play as well as I have ever heard them, but there is no doubting that it is Duke who is the boss throughout. What an amazing pian­ist the man is!


Discography
Money Jungle; Fleurette Africaine; Very Special; Warm Valley (16 min) – Wig Wise; Caravan; Solitude (13 min)
Ellington (p); Mingus (b); Roach (d).
(United Artists ® SULP 1039 12inLP 32s.)