Composers Datebook®

Ellington's "Money Jungle"

Duke Ellington (1899-1974), Charles Mingus (1922-1979), and Max Roach (1924-2007) –Money Jungle: Blue Note 31461

Composer's Datebook - September 17, 2022


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September 17, 2022


In 1962, American jazz composer, performer, and bandleader "Duke" Ellington was 63 years old – an acknowledged master, but trends in American jazz were changing, and there were much younger figures emerging, with more challenging styles.

Take, for example, the bassist Charles Mingus, Jr, a master of collective improvisation, and drummer Max Roach, a pioneer in the Be-Bop movement. Despite their age and stylistic differences, these three jazz titans went into a recording studio on today’s date in 1962 and, while tape rolled, using bare-bones charts provided by Ellington of melodies and harmonies, the three jazz titans improvised. The results were issued the following year as a classic LP entitled, “Money Jungle.”

Despite his fame, Ellington did not have a recording contract in 1962, and, perhaps after decades experiencing the highs and lows of life as a Black jazz musician in a segregated society, “Money Jungle” reflects a certain bitterness. Along with the charts he gave Mingus and Roach, Ellington also provided poetic story lines for each track, like: "Crawling around on the streets are serpents who have their heads up; these are agents and people who have exploited artists. Play that along with the music.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Duke Ellington (1899-1974), Charles Mingus (1922-1979), and Max Roach (1924-2007) –Money Jungle: Blue Note 31461

On This Day


  • 1795 - Baptismal date of Italian opera composer Saverio Mercadante, in Altamura, near Bari;

  • 1884 - American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes, in Elmira, New York;

  • 1917 - Korean-born German composer Isang Yun, in Tong Young (now Chung Mu);


  • 1179 - German mystic, writer and composer Hildegard von Bingen, age c. 81, in Rupertsburg (near Bingen);

  • 1762 - Italian violinist and composer Francesco Geminiani, age 74, in Dublin;

  • 1803 - Austrian composer Franz Xaver Sussmayr, who studied with Salieri and Mozart; Sussmayr completed Mozart's unfinished "Requiem";


  • 1872 - American premiere of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" at a Central Park concert given by the Theodore Thomas orchestra;

  • 1931 - Delius: "A Song of Summer," in London;

  • 1957 - Cowell: "Persian Set," at the Gulestan Palace in Tehran, Iran, by the Minneapolis Symphony, Antal Dorati conducting;

  • 1982 - Steve Reich: "Tehillim" (orchestral version), by New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta;


  • 1966 - German tenor Fritz Wunderlich dies, age 35, from a fall in his home in Heidelberg.