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Thelonious Monk: Monk's Dream/Monk/At Newport 1963 & 1965 (2002)

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Thelonious Monk: Monk's Dream/Monk/At Newport 1963 & 1965 No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Some listeners operate under the misconception that pianist Thelonious Monk recorded his best work for producer Orrin Keepnews at Riverside Records, and the rest of his catalog is somehow considered a mere shadow of those previous glories. One listen to “Bright Mississippi” from the newly re-mastered edition of Monk’s Dream (Columbia/Legacy 63536) and you can’t help but feel our leading man still had plenty to say, and with tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse proving the perfect foil more sublime music was yet to come. In fact, this example is just one of but many great tracks that make up Monk’s 1963 Columbia debut. Now remastered with three previously unreleased alternate takes, this is the best version yet of the timeless classic.

Recorded in the fall of 1964, the selections that make up the album Monk (Columbia/Legacy 86564) are somewhat unusual in that they come primarily from the canon of modern standards; only “Teo” and “Pannonica” are Monk originals—and lesser-known ones at that. That doesn’t in any way take away from the quality of the album as a whole. In fact, Rouse and Monk, now in the company of bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley, sound freer then ever as they explore these established items with abandon. “Children’s Song (That Old Man)” should sound familiar to just about everyone, but its singsong nature seems perfectly attuned to Monk’s progressive style. Three unissued alternate takes add considerably to what might be the sleeper of Monk’s Columbia oeuvre.

Finally, we come to the two-disc set At Newport 1963 & 1965 (Columbia 63905) wherein we get the complete 1963 Newport performance that found iconoclast clarinetist Pee Wee Russell sitting in with the Monk quartet on two numbers. Even more cause for celebration has to be the unearthing of a totally unheard four-song set from Newport in July of 1965. Rouse, Gales, and Riley support Monk on the numbers “Off Minor,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Hackensack,” and “Epistrophy,” and the results are uniformly excellent—as is the live sound recording. Not even listed previously in discographies, these unissued discoveries are worth the price of admission by themselves.

Track Listing:

Monk's Dream: 1 . Monk's Dream (Take 8), 2 . Body And Soul (Re-take 2), 3 . Bright Mississippi (Take 1), 4 . Blues Five Spot, 5 . Blue Bolivar Blues (Take 2), 6 . Just A Gigolo, 7 . Bye-Ya, 8 . Sweet And Lovely, 9 . Monk's Dream (Take 3), 10 . Body And Soul (Take 1), 11. Bright Mississippi (Take 3), 12 . Blue Bolivar Blues (Take 1)

Monk: 1 . Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away), 2 . April In Paris (Take 6), 3 . Children's Song (That Old Man), 4 . I Love You (Sweetheart Of All My Dreams), 5 . Just You, Just Me, 6 . Pannonica (Re-take 2), 7 . Teo, 8 . April In Paris (Take 1), 9 . Pannonica (Take 2), 10 . Medley: Just You, Just Me/Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away)

At Newport 1963 & 1965: Disc 1- 1 . Criss-Cross, 2 . Light Blue, 3 . Nutty, 4 . Blue Monk, 5 . Epistrophy

Disc 2- 1 . Off Minor, 2 . Ruby, My Dear, 3 . Hackensack, 4 . Epistrophy

Personnel: Thelonius Monk (piano) with Charlie Rouse, Pee Wee Russell, Larry Gales, Butch Warren, John Ore, Frankie Dunlop, and Ben Riley

Record Label: Columbia Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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