Duke Ellington surprised the jazz world in 1962 with his historic trio session featuring Charles Mingus and Max Roach.
Not in a mood to simply rework older compositions, the bulk of the original LP focused on music he wrote specifically for the session. "Money Jungle" is a thunderous opener, a blues that might be classified somewhere between post-bop and avant-garde. The gem of the date is the fragile, somewhat haunting ballad "Fleurette Africaine," where Mingus' floating bassline and Roach's understated drumming add to the mystique of an Ellington work that has slowly been gathering steam among jazz musicians as a piece worth exploring more often. "Very Special" is a jaunty upbeat blues, while the angular, descending line of "Wig Wise" also proves to be quite catchy.
Ellington also revisits "Warm Valley" (a lovely ballad indelibly associated with Johnny Hodges) and an almost meditative "Solitude." Thunderous percussion and wild basslines complement a wilder-than-usual approach to "Caravan."
The 1987 CD reissue added five previously unreleased works written for the session and an alternate of "Solitude"; this 2002 edition adds two new alternate takes. Mingus briefly sings along with his opening bass solo to Ellington's sauntering blues "Switch Blade," while Roach's brushwork seasons the leader's down-and-dirty "Rem Blues." Reissue producer Michael Cuscuna adds a brief false start to "Backward Country Boy Blues" to share a complement that Ellington gave to Mingus after hearing his opening bass solo. Even if you already own the earlier, nearly complete CD, it is well worth investing in this expanded 24-bit version, but don't be surprised if it is made obsolete by a later expanded edition with additional unreleased alternate takes, rehearsals, breakdowns, and studio discussions.
Every jazz fan should own a copy of this sensational recording session.
~ Ken Dryden, Rovi
|Brand||Blue Note Records|
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