Last Updated:February 9, 2020
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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.
“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.
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.
Source: London second-hand record store, jazz section, new arrivals.
Whenever 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.