This past Wednesday evening (March 6) on my weekly radio program Ancient/Future, on WPFW 89.3 FM in the Washington, DC metro region (streaming live at www.wpfw.org; where you may also listen to an archived copy of that program) I decided to juxtapose two exceptional recordings. Drummer-bandleader-educator Terri Lyne Carrington, who is without question one of the most resourceful and crafty drummers on the planet, recently determined to re-imagine the classic, and somewhat testy, recording session that brought the peerless trio of Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus together in late ’62 for a recording session that came to be called “Money Jungle” (reissue available on Blue Note, with several alternate takes). TLC’s latest for the Concord label is “Money Jungle – Provocative in Blue”. Working with the basic trio of Gerald Clayton on piano, Christian McBride on bass and herself, Terri Lyne has augmented the basic trio setting of the original Duke-Max-Mingus configuration with occasional horns, percussion, and cleverly sampled voices. The resulting disc will likely wind up on many best-of-2013 lists.
For my radio program I decided to alternate tracks and spin both discs pretty much in their entirety to compare Carrington’s update with the original; what resulted was a fascinating sense of classic/contemporary contrast. Clearly some questions for Terri Lyne were in order.
Given that “Money Jungle” was a piano-bass-drums trio project recorded by three absolute immortals, what was it about that project that prompted you to record your own contemporary “re-imagining” of that record?
With the three vivid personalities who recorded the original “Money Jungle,” there are stories of – ahem – unrest in the recording studio, with particular conflicts reportedly between Mingus and Max. As you looked into making this record, did you take those stories into account?
When I first heard the cd, it just spoke to me on a spiritual, mystical level. Something about the energy of the trio and the vibe and the melodies made me start thinking about trying to pay homage to it and make a personal statement as well. I knew that Duke would have no problem with that because he was about the music evolving – Max and Mingus too.
Is it your sense that the apparent tensions in that original recording session made the final product all the more compelling?
Of course I heard the stories of tension in the studio during the original recording and I heard that Mingus tried to walk out half way through and Duke was savvy enough to talk him back… I used to hang out with Max, would visit him at his place in New York and saw first hand his passion AND temper But the one thing is all of these guys were all about the music – a driving, unselfish, passion to make the best art they could. I did not think about that part of it when we recorded. I just thought about the passion of music and art.
In your planning of this session, how did you arrive at your particular instrumentation in recording this music; as opposed to going the “safer” route and simply making it a contemporary trio project?
I think there is a beauty that comes out of mud – like the lotus flower, so maybe the struggle they may have had brought forth something even more special. But they were all consummate professionals so they were about trying to make the music happen, no matter…
I start to arrange pieces and start to hear the instrumentation as I go. I wanted to keep it trio based, but then some other sounds were just calling out to me. So I honored that. ANd Duke was the master of orchestration, so I felt like he would not have had a problem with it, so I followed my instincts…
What was your sense of including voices in your view of “Money Jungle”? And what was your thinking behind including the sampled voices?
The voice is the most powerful communicator to me, so I always like to include it if it makes sense. I wanted some of the speeches to reflect the time period 50 years ago and as well as now. And I wanted others to speak lightly about economic struggle – which is apropos then and now.
AS far as the poetry on Rem Blues, I fell in love with Duke’s poem Music because it speaks to all musicians and their love of music and how we have to be madly in love with it to sacrifice all that we do and deal with it for a life time. It spoke to me deeply and I wanted to paint a tapestry that worked with it.