Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (United Artists Jazz, 1963)
Making a trio record was Ellington’s idea; teaming him with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, both more than 20 years younger than the Duke, was producer Alan Douglas’ inspired suggestion (to be exact, it was Douglas who suggested Mingus and Mingus who insisted on Roach). The album was recorded at Sound Makers Studios in New York on September 17, 1962. Although the three did meet up beforehand to discuss material and approach, they didn’t rehearse. By the time the session was over, it was pretty clear they’d never work together again. Mingus—supposedly displeased with Roach’s playing, but more likely peeved because Ellington had gone back on his earlier expressed desire to play music other than his own—stormed out midway through, and Duke had to convince him to return. You can feel the tension rising in these tracks, but instead of breaking the music apart, it pushes these three singular players to ever dizzier heights.