Duke Ellington created some of the 20th century's most graceful and winsome music, and to be sure, those more elegant aspects of his personality shine through on many of these cuts. But for the most part, this album is difficult, chaotic, and intense listening. For this 1962 juggernaut, Ellington formed a piano trio with two next-generation stars: Charlie Mingus on bass and Max Roach on drums. Ellington was a hero to Mingus, yet here the thorny bassist seems intent on riling, prodding, and irritating the legendary pianist while Roach tries desperately to keep some sort of order. Ellington certainly doesn't shrink from the fight, offering some of his most challenging, discordant, far-reaching piano work. Listen to the dissonant, rumbling title track or the jolting "Wig Wise" or the sharp-toothed blues "Very Special," and it's hard to believe it's the Duke. Yet most impressively, it sounds like only Duke and nobody else. Enchanting solo readings of older cuts like "Solitude" and "Warm Valley" provide brief respites from the battle, and "Flurette Africaine" is lovely beyond words.