Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1962) UK United Artists

Last Updated:February 9, 2020

ellington-money-jungle-front-1600_LJC-1Selection The Money Jungle

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Artists

Duke Ellington, piano; Charles Mingus, bass;  Max Roach, drums; recorded at Sound Makers, New York City, on September 17, 1962, recording engineer Bill Schwartau, produced by Alan Douglas.

Another of the unique artist permutations created by Alan Douglas in the early Sixties, during his time at United Artists  – 1950-60 U A, long before they turned into corporate producers of Blue Note reissues in the Seventies. Savour some of the titles:
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AllMusic Review:

“Duke Ellington surprised the jazz world in 1962 with his historic trio session featuring Charles Mingus and Max Roach. Not in a mood to simply rework older compositions, the bulk of the LP focused on music he wrote specifically for the session. “Money Jungle” is a thunderous opener, a blues that might be classified somewhere between post-bop and avant-garde.

The gem of the date is the fragile, somewhat haunting ballad “Fleurette Africaine,” where Mingus’ floating bassline and Roach’s understated drumming add to the mystique of an Ellington work that has slowly been gathering steam among jazz musicians as a piece worth exploring more often.

“Very Special” is a jaunty upbeat blues, while the angular, descending line of “Wig Wise” also proves to be quite catchy. Ellington also revisits “Warm Valley” (a lovely ballad indelibly associated with Johnny Hodges) and an almost meditative “Solitude.” Thunderous percussion and wild basslines complement a wilder-than-usual approach to “Caravan.” Every jazz fan should own a copy of this sensational recording session.”

Vinyl:  SULP 1039 United Artists UK, stereo, factory sample.

1st UK release of UAJS 15017, remastered from copy tape and pressed by EMI, Hayes, so sidestepping noisy US pressing, to which UA were prone in the early ’60s. Any remaining issues over the quality  of this recording rest upon the quality of the original studio engineering.

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Douglas had persuasive powers to assemble such a unique collection of  titles, but sadly he did not pay as much attention to the pressing side of vinyl, which was probably dictated by the accounting department.

The engineer behind many of these Alan Douglas UA Jazz titles was Bill Schwartau: Money Jungle, Matador, Jerome Richardson, Ken MacIntyre/Iron sheep, Oliver Nelson, Mingus/Wonderland, Herbie Mann and Evans Hall/Undercurrent, possibly others. My Eric Dolphy RSD Musical Prophet collection Conversations and Ironman, recorded by Schwartau, sounds frankly horrible.

There are good exceptions in the series, for example, the Charles Mingus “Wonderland” title, which is just a reissue of “Jazz Portraits”,the Van Gelder recording for UA from 1959.

Schwartau had praise heaped on him, particularly by his engineering mentoree Phil Ramone, but too many of these recordings sound horrible, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Schwartau was not the “one of the unsung heroes of our industry“, as Ramone describes him.  He was unsung for a reason, judged on his recordings, which are more often than not, pretty awful. Alan Douglas’s confidence in Schwartau was misplaced.

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Collectors Corner:

Source: London second-hand record store, jazz section, new arrivals.

arrivalsWhenever I am up town I try to pop in to quickly browse the New Arrivals. You won’t find a mint copy of Mobley 1568 here – thanks to the internet every record seller is savvy to the highly collectible stuff, but whilst they know what is valuable – that’s their job – they don’t necessarily know what is interesting,which is often not on their radar.

The New Arrivals bin is where local “jazz tramps” poke around in the hope of finding something musically nutritious: a half eaten sandwich, a discarded burger. Rooting around pulled up this –  not a lion or tiger record, but unexpected, interesting and inexpensive. It brings up to six the number of Alan Douglas United Artists Jazz titles in  the collection. Always room for one or two more.

It make a pleasant change from a frustrating week chasing  some Jutta Hipp collectibles against the deep pockets of the world’s jazz collectors. Of four records I was recently 2nd-placed price-setter for, the British seller confided they went to collectors in the US, Switzerland and two to Germany.

Congratulations, Hans, enjoy your records. Now it’s time to pay”    He he he…

FOOTNOTE: LJC passed one quarter of a million page views yesterday. Thanks from the bottom of my black vinyl heart for reading and commenting, and for being generally good sports. Jazz will rise again.

20 thoughts on “Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1962) UK United Artists

  1. Duke Ellington’s 120th birthday today. A musical visionary. Listening to this album “Money Jungle” right now.My version a EMI Uk pressing in mono. Paired with a nice white Chablis.

  2. Andrew,
    What do you know about the UA King pressings? I’m holding out hope the same quality is here as in the Blue Note Kings.
    Many thanks,

    Daniel

    • Though King Records are immediately associated with Blue Note reissues, they were busy in the 80’s and I have King editions of Contemporary, Pacific Jazz, and Transition recordings. manufactured around that time. I don’t have any UA titles but from the few other labels I have, the indications are not especially encouraging.

      Given a decent tape copy to work with, King engineers could pull off a pretty good vinyl transfer (ie Van Gelder!). The problem I have noticed in these other labels are very flat and one-dimensional transfers, lacking the bite and punch I would expect of the originals. The problem may be more with what they were sent, decidedly lacklustre, than what they did with it.

      I am not impressed with early UA engineering (prior to the take over of the Blue Note catalogue), so I can’t be especially encouraging. Perhaps worth an experiment for a modest outlay.

  3. got an UAJ mono copy in pretty good shape soundwise but hum, i’m not that fan of the recording/mix (or is the pressing you describe?), too upfront and somehow kinda clunky – on money jungle anyway – that make you long for a more intimate groove. it’s a landmark album anyway

    • I have an early pressing mfd. by DGG where for two thirds of the title tune the volume is too low, until someone finally adjusted the level. The difference is even recognizable by just looking at the grooves. Seems the guy couldn’t have cared less because he disliked the music and thought no one else would notice either.

      • You wonder how many times this happens. I had a Blakey reissue some time ago when I first started collecting. Couple of minutes into the first track the sound engineer suddenly turns the volume down by around a quarter. The first few minutes were fine so the correction was redundant. Likewise they thought it didn’t matter.

  4. Really not enough Ellington here. Please check out The Far East Suite, The Liberian Suite, Blues in Orbit and Soul Call. Amazing music and Ellington was a major inspirator for most of the musicians reviewed here.

  5. I purchased this off flea-bay about a year ago, a mono version for 3 dollars, from somedbody who bought a collection from a radio station. It still has the programme number and announcer name on it. US version UAJ 14017. Being a radio station copy it was in near mint shape. But the music! My favorite version of Caravan.

  6. This is one of the recordings I have on those contemporaneous HMV pressings which I believe we were commenting on some little while back. Another eight quid one, if I remember correctly. This is a record I haven’t played for some time and should reassess — I seem to recall Cook and Morton being pretty lukewarm about it. Still, no time tonight — listening has been devoted to sampling a batch of David Murrays (from the virtually inexhaustible supply of Murrays, if you can find them).

    Congrats on the quarter million visits.

  7. How nice it is to organize my tax documents with a great cup of coffee and some “Money Jungle”. Makes the task much less tedious. I am enjoying your selections immensely and thank you for sharing them with the world. Congratulations on your milestone of one quarter million page views!

  8. The whole album is amazing, and Fleurette Africaine is a real little jewel. I’m after an eBay auction for an original copy of this record right in this period…..I hope this post of yours will be forerunner of good luck to me! 😉

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