Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue

Terri Lyne Carrington

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Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue Review

by Thom Jurek

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.

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