Fresh off of her Grammy-award winning ‘Mosaic Project,’ Terri Lyne Carrington went straight back into the studio to create another project of equal quality and substance. ‘Money Jungle’ was originally recorded in 1962 by Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus. Just over 50 years later Carrington brings back the raw tension evoked by Ellington, Roach, and Mingus with her own trio filled out by Christian McBride and Gerald Clayton and featuring additional guests Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Tia Fuller, and more. Check out what Carrington had to say about the record before you see her perform it at Dizzy’s this week!

Photo by Annette Brown

Photo by Annette Brown

What was it about the original Money Jungle album that made you want to revisit it?

It’s kind of mystical, you know? I’m not sure exactly what it was. It had a vibe and a spirit about it that made me made me want to cover it. The title track, “Money Jungle,” was one that I had done on a couple of gigs, and then I took a closer listen to the whole album and thought it would be cool to revisit the music and themes. There are a lot of blues on that record, all going in different ways. They’re not the most complicated Duke Ellington compositions, so I figured it would be a good starting point for me to jump into his world.

Max Roach was the drummer on that album and huge inspiration throughout his career. What does he mean to you?

I knew Max since I was 12 or 13 and he was a mentor to me. I’d go stay at his house sometimes to visit with him. He actually tried to get me a record deal with Blue Note when I was 16 or 17 — so he was definitely a big supporter. So the fact that I got to pay some tribute to him as well was very nice.

Stylistically what did you take away from your time with Max Roach?

He was one of the father’s of modern drumming. He was one of the first people to make the drum set come to the forefront of the music and he made people pay attention to it as a solo instrument. He also helped develop the bebop vocabulary. He was really one of the first drummer-bandleaders in the modern jazz realm, so he was paving the way for all of us. He was a founding father of it all. I have an incredible amount of respect for all that he did. He was actually the first person that I really heard playing in odd time signatures and that’s when I got interested in playing outside of 4/4.

The Money Jungle record has a lot of cultural undertones and speaks of a very specific time in our history, yet it’s also seemingly timeless. What do you see happening today in our culture that reminded you of the same themes on the original record?

It’s funny because there are always economic issues. It’s like those things never change — Art vs. Commerce and those types of things. The thought process of musicians, in jazz in particular, is not commercial art. Of course we’re concerned with the commerce aspect of it, but it’s not what drives us completely or else we wouldn’t do it. These are things that have been talked about for a long time.

Even the word jazz is a discussion that’s going on now and it was a discussion back then as well. Duke Ellington said that jazz to him just means freedom of expression. He didn’t like the term at all. It’s the same type of themes that are being talked about now that were being talked about then — the style of music has just changed and grown. But people like Duke Ellington were always concerned with moving the music forward. I think when you pay tribute to someone like that or a project like Money Jungle, you have to be thinking like that as well. That’s the best way to pay tribute to musicians who were so forward thinking like Duke Ellington, Max, and Mingus.

What’s behind that subtitle “Provocative In Blue” that you added to your version of the record?

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to amend for the title. “Blue” is because there are obviously a lot of blues on the record. I used “provocative” to mean thought provoking. I try to make records and grooves and sounds that are seductive, so that plays into the word as well.

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As you were listening to the songs, what struck you as special about the interplay between Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus?

There was a tension between Max and Mingus and it came through in the music. There was tension with them in the studio. There was probably some tension between Duke and Mingus too. That tension creates a certain beauty though. It’s kind of like a lotus flower that grows out of mud. So you can feel Mingus and Max duking it out a little bit [laughs] — no pun intended!

As you were thinking about which musicians to record with yourself, what went into the decision to get Christian McBride and Gerald Clayton?

Christian has such a strong sound and time-feel that he seems to be the modern day Mingus. Gerald has such a link between the past and the present. He’s one of the few young players that can really play with that feel from those days. He’s really steeped in the blues, but he also is a very modern player and a modern thinker — he’s a product of his generation. For me that was the perfect call.

Photo by Michael Goldman

Photo by Michael Goldman

What struck you as the most special moment in the studio?

It was all special for me. The biggest moment I guess for me was having Clark Terry on the CD though.

Moving forward in the music, has the fact that you won a Grammy changed your perspective of who your audience is?

I think it just changed a little bit of the awareness about some of the other projects that I’m doing as well as my writing and arranging abilities. I’m getting a few more calls since the Grammy and that’s very nice. And now I feel like I’ll have the support to keep doing projects that I want to do.

You’re already back in the studio too! What’re you working on?

I’m producing Diane Reeves’ new CD.

Drummers tend to make pretty incredible producers. Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because a drummer knows the natural shape and arc to a piece of music and a good drummer really helps to control the dynamics and helps to control the band and where it’s going. I think those are strong qualities for production. Drummers have a certain coordination and you need coordination as a producer, but in a different way. You have to manage music, the budget, and a lot of other things. Drummers do make good producers though; I’ve noticed that as well.

For the gig tomorrow you have James Genus, Nir Felder, Tia Fuller, and Gerald Clayton. Are you excited to be bringing the music with a new set of musicians?

Yeah! I’m always excited to play and to present some of my ideas and projects. I try not to look at it like it’s supposed to be like the record exactly because the players are different. It’s going to be its own thing.

Interview by Eric Sandler (@ericsandler)

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Terri Lyne Carrington Presents Money Jungle at Dizzy’s — 3/26-3/27

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