Not a Reissue. The venerable Orrin Keepnews informs the liner note reader right off the bat that this two-CD set of solo Monk music is not a reissue. It is comprised of all of the solo piano performances prepared during Monk's association with Columbia. Collected are the solo performances that occurred on otherwise ensemble LPs as well as Solo Monk (47854). I addition, there a 14 previously unreleased performances. A reissue? A compilation? I don't care what it's called; it is finally nice to have a complete and competently collected and annotated canon of solo Monk. This disc is part of the excellent Columbia Legacy series that includes releases from Robert Johnson to Weather Report. Other Monk also recently released by Columbia Legacy is Thelonious Monk Live at the It Club- Complete (65288).
The Specifications. The Monk performances break down like this: 8 Monk originals and 29 "standards" for a total of 37 pieces. This includes 11 master/alternate take relationships. Keepnews, who produced this release, separated the alternate from the master takes to avoid "the reissue cliche of stringing together two or more versions of several numbers [which] can get annoying. "A big positive of this release is that it is a manageable 2 CDs as opposed to many such packages that are multi-disc (and thus prohibitively expensive). Fate certainly directed this material to this collection.
Fractured Stride. All of these performances are performed in a slow to medium tempo stride style. Maybe not exactly stride, but a broken or cracked stroll. Geoff Dyer, in his book But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz, described Monks style, "He played each note as though astonished by the previous one, as though every touch of his finger on the keyboard was correcting and error and this touch in turn became an error to be corrected and so the tune never quite ended up the way it was supposed to." Of course, this was all contrived. Monk, like Beethoven, presented his music on his terms and it was up to the listeners to accept it, reject it, but never, never to be neutral about it. Monk made people listen differently.
Why Buy This Disc? Thelonious Monk was an iconoclast and enigma even within the iconoclastic and enigmatic world of Be Bop. He was both integral to that world and was far apart from it as he could be. The performances on this disc, whether originals or standards, are indelibly Monk performances: brilliantly frustrating, violently original.
Disc 1: Body and Soul, Just a Gigolo, Don't Blame Me, Nice Work if You Can Get it, Memories of You, I Love You Sweetheart All of My Dreams, I Surrender, Dear, Sweet and Lovely, Everything Happens to Me, I Should Care, North of the Sunset, These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You), I Hadn't Anyone Till You, Dinah, I'm Confessin' (That I Love You), Monk's Point, Ask Me Now, Ruby, My Dear, 'Round Midnight, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, This is My Story, This is My Song, Introspection, Darn That Dream, Body and Soul, Body and Soul, Don't Blame Me, I Love You Sweetheart All of My Dreams, Sweet and Lovely, Everything Happen to Me, Everything Happens to Me, I Hadn't Anyone Until You, Dinah, I'm Confessing (That I Love You), Ask Me Now, Everything Happens to Me, Introspection, Ruby, My Dear.