Recent listening, current

Thursday, June 27, 2013

111. Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus & Max Roach / Money Jungle (1963)

Money Jungle is all about contrasts and individuality. The music is famously, and often physically, tense. The grit is established on the first track "Money Jungle" where Mingus spends much of his time aggressively bending a static harmonic element while Duke assertively pounds big blocks across the registers. Each musician has a distinct playing style, and no one gives an inch for the notion of a group product. Remarkably, a unique group product is exactly what we get. The mood often swings to moments of quiet beauty, but rocks quickly back to outbursts of boulder dropping and more assaults on bass and drums. At times it sounds as if Duke is pointing to sections of his orchestra which are not actually in the studio, playing electrifying chords in his characteristic staccato style before drawing back in contemplation and moving his hands to other registers. With the keyboard laid out in front of him, he's arranging while improvising. A listener with experience with titles in the Duke Ellington catalog will hear the bones of the brass and reeds as sections rise and fall in the imaginary arrangement. I'm happy Duke had the foresight to request making this album with one of his greatest adherents, Charles Mingus, possibly the only talent in jazz that may have been equivocal in terms of composition, orchestration or arrangement.

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