Reviewing Money Jungle Jazz Album that Features Duke Ellington

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Words: 880 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 880|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

The album I chose to review is called Money Jungle, featuring Duke Ellington on the piano. This album was first recorded September 17th, 1962, however it wasn’t released until February 1963 by the record label United Artists. The history of this album is quite interesting because when it was released in 1963, there were only seven songs on the album; however, in 1979 Blue Note Records reissued the album on CD and included four unreleased tracks that were written for the album but never released, and two alternative takes. Finally, in 2002, Blue Note released the album again after they improved the quality of the original recording, enhancing the sound of the drums in particular. This album resulted in two more alternative takes being added, increasing the number of tracks from seven songs to fifteen songs on the final release of the album. The genre of the jazz on this album is described as post-bop. I decided to review this album because Duke Ellington is a highly recognized name in jazz music and this album consists of the rhythm section alone.

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This album had Ellington on the piano, Charles Mingus on the double bass, and Max Roach on the drums. All three of these artists have left a very powerful legacy so it’s interesting to see how these three legends work together. Duke Ellington himself composed all the songs on this album, except for one song titled “Caravan”.

Upon discovering that “Caravan” was featured on this album I could not resist the urge to review it since it is one of the songs we are playing in class. Juan Tizol composed this song. The song begins with Max Roach playing a consistent yet simple rhythm on the toms, followed by the introduction of Mingus on the bass and finally Duke Ellington on the piano. When Ellington first makes his entrance he has a dark tone, which is powerful because the drummer and bassist aren’t very complicated in the beginning of this piece. Throughout this piece they transition from Latin to Swing, however the transitions are fairly simple on the drums. During the Latin parts of the song, Roach does not use the cymbals at all and instead just focuses on keeping it simple by creating a rhythm with just the toms. This provided a very powerful and distinct transition leading into the swing rhythm, which was accompanied by an enticing sound on the ride cymbal and Roach doing simple comps on the snare. There are no solos, however the pianist is constantly changing his style of playing throughout the piece. Max Roach is very subtle for most of the piece, but he gets his chance to shine at the end when he gets a few measures of fills, in which you hear him go around the set quickly with a remarkable speed. Max Roach and Mingus really seem to push Ellington to the point where he dominates both of them in the song.

The song that stood out to me most from the entire album was “A Little Max.” This song was by far the most interesting song I heard in the entire album. Normally a drummer is there to keep the time and compliment the other musicians, however this song is basically a drum solo, which is complimented by the bass playing and piano comps, switching the roles of the drummer with the other musicians. Roach takes complete advantage of practically every nook and cranny of his drum set by using the toms, snare and even the rims. Both Ellington and Mingus manage to keep it very light behind the drummer and compliment his solo well. Roach’s style is very interesting because it seems as if he refuses to use the cymbals. In his solo he only touches the hi-hat a handful of times and he does not use the ride or the crash at all. The most admirable aspect of his drumming is that he is not afraid to try different rhythms and in the process he produces sounds on the drum set that sound melodic.

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There is no doubt that these three musicians are some of the greatest jazz musicians to have ever lived, so having such a legendary trio on one album was a learning experience for me, considering the fact that I don’t listen to jazz music often. All three of the musicians seem to be ‘doing their own thing” but in the end they manage to make it work. I give this album a rating of 5/5 because the artists on this album go above and beyond by making if seem as if they’re having a conversation with the music. There are no lyrics to the songs on this album, but you can practically hear the instruments talking to each other. Max Roach’s style of drumming is truly something different; he breaks all the rules by thinking outside of the box when creating his rhythms. Even his simplest fills have so much power behind them. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has a passion for jazz because these three musicians successfully push each other to the point where they create a raw and driving sound that shows the true beauty of jazz music.

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Alex Wood

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Reviewing Money Jungle Jazz Album That Features Duke Ellington. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Reviewing Money Jungle Jazz Album That Features Duke Ellington.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
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