Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Terri Lyne Carrington- Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue
When you get into popularity then you're talking about money, not music. -Duke Ellington
Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue is the sort of high-concept album that music geeks adore. In a nutshell: three of today's most accomplished jazz musicians reinterpret a classic jazz album with bold political perspectives and contemporary sounds. I applaud the audaciousness of the project.
A core group of drummer and bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington, bassist Christian McBride and pianist Gerald Clayton employ a few additional likeminded musicians and a slew of provocative spoken word samples about economics. The original Money Jungle- a 1963 collaboration between Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach- merely implied what Carrington and her cohorts make explicit.
The risk of a project of this nature is that the wealth of ideas could easily outshine the music. That's not the case here. The album is consistently entertaining. Its sole fault is that two or three of the piano trio tracks more closely resemble the Ray Brown Trio than the legendary original Money Jungle assemblage. There are worse things, of course, than hearing McBride emulate his Ray Brown.
Clark Terry's slurry scat on "Fleurette Africain” is just as articulate as the sampled monetary quotes from figures including Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ron Paul and Condoleezza Rice that are sprinkled throughout the album. The neo-soul of "Backward Country Boy Blues," featuring vocalist Lizz Wright, is superior to most of Esperanza Spalding's disappointing Radio Music Society. Mainstream jazz fans may object to these updates, but Carrington's versatility is in line with the progressive inclinations of Ellington, Mingus and Roach.
It's difficult not to interpret Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue as a commentary on today's dismal jazz economy. This is an essential album made by some of the biggest names in jazz. Yet it only stands an outside chance at breaking into sales of five figures. Only a handful of critics have yet to even acknowledge the album's existence. Amazon's current sales ranking of the February 5 release is #1,178.
The album closes with Herbie Hancock reading the Ellington quote posted above. Was Ellington right? Or was he making a self-serving excuse for the diminished role jazz plays in American culture?
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I don't care what anyone says- I think Frank Ocean's weird Grammy performance was brilliant.
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Last night I dreamed that I was married to the daughter of Irma Thomas.
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Lonnie McFadden performs at WestChase Grille on Wednesday.
Carrie Rodriguez returns to Knuckleheads on Thursday.
(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)