Ellington et al would be proud of Carrington’s 21st century reinterpretations.
Daniel Spicer 2013
It both documented a rare summit of three of the most crucial stylists in the music’s history, and addressed the pressing socio-cultural concerns of the day.
All three artists had written pieces that reflected the Civil Rights struggle in America. But with Money Jungle they widened their focus, proposing an artistic response to the ravenous machinations of US capitalist society.
Fifty years on, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington takes on the challenge of reinterpreting the album for the 21st century.
Her subtitle, Provocative in Blue, is apt: not only are all the tunes built on the basic blues structure, she also offers her own incisive take on the serious issues facing modern society.
While African American Civil Rights might have been secured, half a century later, rampant capitalism still represents a major threat.
On the title track, the urgency of this situation is slammed home with a driving bass and drum riff, and samples of speeches by Martin Luther King Jr, Barack Obama and others, while retaining Ellington’s blunt, blocky chords.
Though Carrington nods towards Ellington’s and Mingus’ skills as arrangers of mid-sized ensembles, by adding guest voices including trombonist Robin Eubanks and legendary trumpeter (and Ellington alumnus) Clark Terry, it’s another trio that sits at the heart of this album.
Carrington completes her heavyweight triumvirate with bassist Christian McBride and pianist Gerald Clayton, masterful musicians who blaze through a deep-swinging version of Very Special and luxuriate in the ponderous 12-bar of Switch Blade.
She shows a daring flair for reimagining Ellington’s epochal compositions in a contemporary style: Wig Wise becomes propulsive Latin fusion with an intriguing faux-raga coda.
Elsewhere, Backward Country Boy Blues begins with Delta blues slide guitar before hunkering down into laidback funk with delicious squelch bass.
This audacious project feels good in the body and soul while, simultaneously, challenging us to wake up and take a look at the world around us.
Ellington, Mingus and Roach would be proud.