Duke Ellington was a native son of Washington DC and his icon and energy is everywhere. I lived there from 2000 through 2005 and always felt the presence of his legacy during my time in that beautiful city. I was browsing Politics & Prose Bookstore on Connecticut Avenue on a rainy day and I was drawn in by the sound of the rain co-mingling with the piano keys of the most sophisticated jazz music. It was “Money Jungle” by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach.
Up until then, I knew Duke Ellington as a band leader and for his earlier music like “It Don’t Mean A Thing” from 1943. Money Jungle was released in 1962 and is a stripped-down post-bop jazz trio music, very different from the big-band sounds I was used to hearing from Ellington.
I promptly bought a copy and haven’t stopped for the past 10 years playing this album on a regular basis. When I listen to it, I feel urbane and funky, and it allows my mind to wander on about society, politics, and the culture we are living in.
It’s simultaneously contemporary and classic, as it was recorded more than 50 years ago, but sounds as current as something recorded last year. It was recorded in one live session and was not rehearsed. The album you hear is the first time these musicians played together. Remarkable.
Here is the second track from the album “Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)”, composed by Duke Ellington:
Here is the second to last track “Caravan” composed by Juan Tizol: