Monk’s Music is the session where Thelonious famously told a frustrated Coltrane and Hawkins that, given the talent between the two of them, they should certainly be able to figure out how to handle his songs. Playing with Monk was more like a 5K run than a walk in the park, yet everyone who gigged with him left all the better for it. This session will not dispel Monk’s kooky reputation (Why does the record start with a minute long spiritual? And why is Monk in a wagon on the cover?) but the stellar lineup is certainly the main attraction here. On this record Monk seems to delight in throwing his thorniest compositions at these seasoned players; any session where “Well You Needn’t” is the most conventional tune is bound to make lesser players feel as lost as goats on Astroturf. Nevertheless, Hawkins sounds quite at home in the beautiful “Ruby My Dear” and Coltrane and Copeland are up to the chores involved with angular puzzles like “Off Minor” and “Epistrophy” while Blakey churns away happily in the background. With so much going on, this session is an exhausting listen. Monk is still best heard either solo or with a trio, but this interesting side trip into a larger ensemble is an interesting experiment that gives new life to some old Monk chestnuts.
Track Listing: Abide With Me, Well You Needn't, Ruby My Dear, Off Minor(take 5), Epistrophy, Crepuscle With Nellie (take 6), Off Minor (take 4), Crepuscle With Nellie (takes 4 and 5).
Personnel: Thelonious Monk-piano; Ray Copeland-trumpet; Gigi Gryce-alto saxophone; John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins-tenor saxophone; Wilbur Ware-bass; Art Blakey-drums.