JazzTimes 10: All-Time Great Piano Trio Albums

The power of three is on full display in these groups

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.

Preview, buy or download Money Jungle on Amazon!

Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall has been the editor of JazzTimes since May 2018. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.