Superstar collaboration albums usually go one of two ways: (1) they produce a clash of egos ending in disaster; or (2) they go out in a whimper of disappointment, because the whole thing was a producer or executive’s idea and despite some good chemistry the one-off nature of the project didn’t allow enough time for things to come together. Money Jungle is something of the latter. In that, it is one of the more promising collaborations of its type. Yet it still feels like it could have been better. Duke made many collaboration albums, but what jumps out about this one is that rather than the other artist(s) coming over to his turf, this time it’s Duke who migrates over to the territory of the bop/hard bop camp. He proves he was an underrated pianist, though some of the slower tunes here feel almost like filler.
I think this is a pretty good album. It’s really just a refinement of Ellingtonian ideas, rather than anything groundbreaking. And the album does insist itself upon the listener. I think there are better Mingus albums. But this is still good. Oh, lest I forget to mention this: read the liner notes. The whole pretentious asshole quality of Mingus that you might detect in the music should become crystal clear.