The original Money Jungle album, released in 1963, was a collaboration between Ellington, bassist Charles Mingus, and drummer Max Roach. Mingus and Roach, of course, were musical giants of the post-bop era. Ellington, in addition to his genius as a composer and bandleader, was an inventive and innovative pianist, and Money Jungle is a interesting melding of styles and personalities. Most of the songs were written by Ellington for the LP (with the exceptions of “Warm Valley”, “Caravan”, and “Solitude”).
The 47-year-old Carrington, a drummer, composer, educator, and singer is well known in jazz circles. She’s played with a musical who’s who, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, and David Sanborn. Fans of The Arsenio Hall Show will remember her as the house drummer. She’s released several albums in her own name. Her 2011 effort The Mosaic Project, featuring many well-known female artists, won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Fifty years after Money Jungle was released, Carrington has reinterpreted the album with keyboardist Gerald Clayton and bassist Christian McBride. Carrington has penned two songs, and Clayton one, to replace the songs not written specifically for the original. Other artists on the album include trumpeter Clark Terry, trombonist Robin Eubanks, reed players Tia Fuller and Antonio Hart, guitarist Nir Felder, percussionist Arturo Stabile, and vocalists Shea Rose and Lizz Wright.
While Carrington, Clayton, and McBride owe a great deal stylistically to the original Money Jungle artists, their own unique styles add to the freshness of the interpretations. Clayton combines facileness and dexterity with an expressive pianistic style. McBride is a renowned virtuoso and composer in his own right.
Carrington herself is an inventive and skilled drummer, making full use of the rhythmic innovations pioneered since the '60s. At times she adds a soul-funk groove, sometimes a Latin-tinged or World Music beat, sometimes a fusion-influenced feel.
Some arrangements closely mirror the earlier versions. The blues “Very Special” employs the same swinging tempo used in the initial version. In other songs (“Switch Blade”) she begins in a style very close to the original, but then employs more dissonant voices, rhythmic variations, and additional instruments.