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Thelonious Monk Quintet: Monk (2009)

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Thelonious Monk Quintet: Monk How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The remastered Monk is actually two mini-sets melded into one with the first quintet consisting of the underrated trumpeter Ray Copeland
Ray Copeland
b.1926
, tenor saxophonist Frank Foster
Frank Foster
Frank Foster
1928 - 2011
saxophone
and bassist Curly Russell
Curly Russell
Curly Russell
b.1917
, with the legendary Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
holding it all together on drums. These first four tracks (including a beautiful rendition of the Jerome Kern classic "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") are upbeat and decidedly lighter in tone. This half ends with a masterfully syncopated solo by Blakey on the jaunty "Hackensack," named after the New Jersey town where the set was recorded in 1954.

The last three tracks were recorded a year before in New York with tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
, bassist Percy Heath
Percy Heath
Percy Heath
1923 - 2005
bass, acoustic
, French horn player Julius Watkins
Julius Watkins
Julius Watkins
1921 - 1977
french horn
and drummer Willie Jones
Willie Jones
Willie Jones
b.1929
. A dramatic shift from the first set, the tone is dark, moody and methodically paced. Rollins' effortless riffs complement Monk's catchy avant-garde melodies and creative harmonization. It's interesting to compare two back-to-back takes of "Think of One." The subtle differences reveal themselves upon repeat listens. The second take has a tighter intro based heavily on the song's chord progression with a piano flourish punctuating the end phrase. In general, notes are chosen with more care, though the solos on the first version take more risks. This dichotomy sums up the two sides of Monk's playing. The first set shows a penchant for melody while the second captures an innovator mixing up the status quo in search of a new and exciting sound. Both are important to understanding his rare talent.

Track Listing: We See; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Locomotive; Hackensack; Let's Call This; Think of One (take 2); Think of One (take one).

Personnel: Thelonious Monk: piano; Frank Foster: tenor saxophone; Ray Copeland: trumpet; Curly Russell: bass; Art Blakey: drums; Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Julius Watkins: french horn; Percy Heath: bass; Willie Jones: drums.

Record Label: Concord Music Group

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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