Thelonious Monk – Thelonious Monk Plays the Music of Duke Ellington Riverside RLP 12-201 (1955)
Okay, but somehow lacking. Though Clarke and Pettiford make up an A-list rhythm section, they don’t seem to bring their “A” game to this recording. People often note how Monk softened the edges of his playing during his tenure on Columbia Records, but even here on Riverside he was doing that already.
Duke Ellington / Charlie Mingus / Max Roach – Money Jungle United Artists UAJ 14017 (1963)
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.