Second in the series of Thelonious Monk releases produced by the his son, T.S. Monk, Monk Round the World presents seven live tracks of the seminal pianist performing in various European and U.S. locales.
At this point it would be impossible to expect a Monk release to provide wholly new insights into the artist's music, but like its predecessor, Monk Round the World offers an intriguing glimpse into Monk's live performance style, and it documents in clear audio (and video) the ever innovative and preeminently distinctive master. This is Monk outside the studio and in his native environment, and no matter how many times one may have heard differing versions of classic tunes like "Epistrophy," "Blue Monk" or "Bemsha Swing," it seems when Monk is at the helm, there is always some new nuance waiting to be discovered. Perhaps this seemingly endless wealth of inventiveness stands as the final testament to his mastery, for ultimately, though many, many brilliant musicians have found many avenues through Monk's compositions, it is still Monk who brings them to life more than any other.
Though all the tracks presented brim with Monk's now classically idiosyncratic improvisations, of particular note is an intriguingly extended version of "Ruby My Dear" on which Charlie Rouse provides a graciously tender performance.
As an additional treat, Thelonious Records has followed through on the promise begun with Monk in Paris and once again included a DVD of live Monk performances as a bonus attraction. Taken from a concert performed in London, the DVD documents three tunes. Unfortunately, the material is not as carefully edited or of the same high quality as the documentary included on the previous release. However, despite its flawsincluding a strange predilection for long, extreme close-upsthe footage provides an important slice of history. Captured here is Monk's demeanor, his stage presence, his interaction with the rest of the band. Long time Monk fans and initiates alike will appreciate the importance of not only hearing Monk, but seeing Monk.
A welcome continuation of T.S. Monk's project to further document his father's career in all its aspects, Monk Round the World is another outstanding release. One can only hope there's more to come.