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Blue Notes: Carrington Reinterprets Duke Ellington's 'Money Jungle'

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Thursday April 11, 2013

From South China Morning Post

Blue Notes: Reinterpreting Duke Ellington’s ‘Money Jungle’
By: Robin Lynam

Composer-bandleader Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was famously reluctant to fire his musicians. He was generally able to make an unwelcome player feel sufficiently uncomfortable to quit of his own accord, but occasionally he had to ask the musician to leave.

This was the case with Charles Mingus, who was fired by Ellington after an onstage fight between Mingus and trombonist Juan Tizol. That incident in 1953, as recounted by the bassist in his colourful if unreliable autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, involved Tizol pursuing Mingus with a knife, and he destroying his bandmate’s chair with a fire axe.

Mingus recalled Ellington’s response: “‘Really, Charles, that’s destructive … So I’m afraid Charles – I’ve never fired anybody – you’ll have to quit my band. I don’t need any new problems. Juan’s an old problem, I can cope with that, but you seem to have a whole bag of new tricks. I must ask you to be kind enough to give me your notice, Charles.’ The charming way he says it, it’s like he’s paying you a compliment. Feeling honoured, you shake hands and resign.”

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