Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord Jazz)

Terri Lyne Carrington

Released February 5, 2013

Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2014




In 1962, Duke Ellington recorded a trio date with bassist Charlie Mingus and drummer Max Roach that is today considered one of the pivotal jazz recordings of the 1960s. Money Jungle, the 1963 album that emerged from the session, was – among other things – a commentary on the perennial tug-of-war between art and commerce. In some ways, the album’s 11 tracks were intended as a sort of counterbalance to the capitalist bent of the Mad Men generation.

Fifty years later, this precarious balance in the world of jazz – or in any art form, for that matter – hasn’t changed much. Enter GRAMMY® Award-winning drummer, composer and bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington, who enlists the aid of two high-profile collaborators – keyboardist Gerald Clayton and bassist Christian McBride – to pay tribute to Duke, his trio and his creative vision with a cover of this historic recording. Carrington’s Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue is set for release on Concord Jazz on February 5, 2013 (international release dates may vary).

Duke’s original recording is something that has haunted Carrington since she first heard it about a decade ago. “I had bought it on CD, from the discount bin in a music store,” she recalls. “I put it on in my car, and I immediately just felt something mysterious about it. There was just an energy that moved through the tracks. Duke and Charles and Max had a chemistry about them. There was this tension that you could hear, and yet they fit together like a hand in a glove.”

In preparation for the project, Carrington read up on Duke’s biography. “I felt like a method actor, she says. “I just dug as deep as I could in the time that I had to get a glimpse of his perspective on things. When you start rearranging music by someone like Duke Ellington, you better feel really good about what you’re doing. In the end, I felt confident that I didn’t do him a disservice, because he was a very open-minded artist, and he was very much about moving forward.”

Carrington considers her Money Jungle – like its predecessor – primarily a trio album, but she’s not averse to some enhancement and additional textures along the way. Helping out with the rearrangements and reinterpretations is an impressive list of guest artists: trumpeter Clark Terry, trombonist Robin Eubanks, reed players Tia Fuller and Antonio Hart, guitarist Nir Felder, percussionist Arturo Stabile and vocalists Shea Rose and Lizz Wright. Herbie Hancock appears in a spoken word segment as the voice of Duke Ellington.

The set opens with the driving title track, which opens with the simple but unsettling spoken-word observation about a capitalist society: “You have to create problems to create profit.” Despite the ominous message, the music that follows is surprisingly bouyant, thanks to an elastic rhythm set up by Carrington in support of her collaborators’ exploratory piano and bass interplay. All of it is peppered with clips from speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and others.

The pace slows down a bit with “Fleurette Africain,” a track that features Robin Eubanks on trombone, and Tia Fuller and Antonio Hart on flutes, as well as the iconic Clark Terry on trumpet. Terry also delivers a stream-of-conscious vocal line that’s part spoken-word part scatting. “Getting Clark Terry on this track was one of the most special parts of the record, because he’s someone who is really connected to Duke Ellington,” says Carrington. “My first gig was with Clark at 10 years old then I joined his band when I was 18, after I had left home and moved to New York. His vocals really bring it home for me, and this track kind of brings my career full circle.”

Vocalist Lizz Wright – who has participated in numerous live performances in support of Carrington’s all-female, GRAMMY®-Award winning recording, The Mosaic Project – steps up to the mic for “Backward Country Boy Blues.” The track begins in the spirit of deep Delta gospel, then morphs into something much more contemporary and orchestrated. All the while, Wright’s atmospheric vocals bring an element of mystery to the track.

Carrington inserts two of her own compositions into the set – the syncopated yet melodic “Grass Roots” and the ominous-turned-lively “No Boxes (Nor Words)” – along with “Cut Off,” a delicate piece written by Clayton. The three tracks replace “Warm Valley,” “Caravan” and “Solitude,” which appear on Duke’s original Money Jungle but were not written specifically for the date. In tribute to Ellington and his original work, Clayton’s “Cut Off” does include numerous melodic references to “Solitude.”

The set ends on the quiet notes of “Rem Blues/Music,” which features the voices of Shea Rose and Herbie Hancock. Rose works her way through the song with a spoken-word recitation of the poem, “Music,” which compares the art form to a multi-faceted and irresistibly seductive woman. Hancock closes the track quoting Duke Ellington, with observations about the role of music in society and the popularity of money versus the popularity of art.

The music of Duke’s Money Jungle may have first emerged a half-century ago, but “there’s nothing old about great music and great musicians,” says Carrington, who sees her own Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue as addressing some of the same issues as its 1963 predecessor. “There’s always something that’s new, if you know how to listen to it. You have to be able to appreciate the past if you want to have a future. I think that’s a big part of our job as artists and entertainers and educators – to keep reminding the younger musicians how important our predecessors were – especially the people who made the music what it is today. So it was my goal to bring some fresh light and fresh energy to some of Duke’s music in general and this recording in particular.”

Track Listing:

1. Money Jungle (Duke Ellington) 6:21

2. Fleurette Africain (Duke Ellington) 5:56

3. Backward Country Boy Blues (Duke Ellington) 6:00

4. Very Special (Duke Ellington) 4:11

5. Wig Wise (Duke Ellington) 6:17

6. Grass Roots (Duke Ellington) 4:38

7. No Boxes (Nor Words) (Terri Lyne Carrington) 5:37

8. A Little Max (Parfait) (Duke Ellington) 5:01

9. Switch Blade (Duke Ellington) 6:28

10. Cut Off (Gerald Clayton) 5:08

11. REM Blues/Music (Duke Ellington) 6:44


Terri Lyne Carrington: drums

Gerald Clayton: Fender Rhodes, piano

Robin Eubanks: trombone

Nir Felder: guitar

Tia Fuller: alto saxophone, flute

Antonio Hart: flute

Christian McBride: bass

Arturo Stable: percussion

Clark Terry: trumpet, vocals (2)

Lizz Wright: vocals (3)

Herbie Hancock: vocals (11)

Shea Rose: vocals (11)

Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY, by Mike Marciano

Produced by Terri Lyne Carrington

Executive Producers: Terri Lyne Carrington and Robert Hebert

Mixing: Jeremy Loucas, Martin Walters

Mastering: Paul Blakemore

Photography: Michael Goldman, Tracy Love

Artwork: Renae McNeil


Drummer and bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington won a Grammy in 2012 for her genre-blurring Mosaic Project, which blended the voices and instruments of an all-female cast in a series of bold musical statements. Here Carrington turns her sights toward revisioning a legendary meeting of jazz minds on the recording of 1963’s Money Jungle by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. Accompanied by pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Christian McBride, and a host of guests, Carrington not only reinterprets that album, she adds to its discourse with two of her own compositions and another by Clayton. She doesn’t follow the original sequence of Money Jungle. She kicks it off with the title cut introduced by her drum kit underneath the voice of activist and author Michael Ruppert, whose quote, “You have to create problems to create profit,” highlights other well-chosen, organically placed sound clips from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Hilary and Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, making the tune — and the album — an artistic, musical indictment of the pervasive corruption in Western capitalism. But this set is far from some autodidactic sermonette. As McBride and Clayton enter the tune’s fray, things get funky and swing. With her trademark brand of authoritative circular rhythm (deeply influenced by Roach) at the core, this trio comes together seamlessly to move the argument from the intellect into the heart. Nonagenarian jazz elder Clark Terry lends his deep blue scatting vocal and trumpet to a steamy read of “Fleurette Africaine.” The set’s hinge piece is “Wig Wise,” with its knotty lyric head stated definitively by Clayton. McBride shines throughout, but his blues solo, which kicks off “Switch Blade,” offers homage to that same feel in Mingus. Nir Felder’s gutbucket, bottleneck guitar playing introduces what becomes a sophisticated, slinky, nocturnal read of “Backwoods Country Boy Blues,” which is decidedly more urban than its title suggests. It is complemented beautifully by Lizz Wright’s wordless vocals. Carrington’s “Grass Roots” is a beautifully angular blues, while her “No Boxes (Nor Words)” is an expressionistic modernist post-bop number with a smoking solo by McBride. The set ends with “REM Blues/Music,” which commences quietly, subtly, and with a shimmering quality from Clayton’s Rhodes. The tune incorporates an Ellington poem recited by Shea Rose with a spoken coda by him offered by Herbie Hancock. Carrington’s title, Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, is apt. She reveals the pervasive nature the blues in the original album’s compositions and intent, and underscores how their importance resonates in jazz’s present tense. And nothing brings the blues like money — especially the lack of it. But Ellington himself stated that “… the music will be there when the money is gone.” Amen.

Thom Jurek (AllMusic)